Sergeant Darin DeFreece of the Roseville Police Department , Investigations Division (Roseville, CA) observes that child sexual predators have shifted to on-line sexual encounters made very easy with wireless technology. While technology trends may evolve, DeFreece says there is a constant trend for predators to befriend minors.
“Wireless and social networking technology is advancing so quickly, it is crucial that parents establish ground rules early,” says DeFreece. “Today parents need to treat mobile and wireless devices as if they were handing over the keys to the car,” he added.
Part of the challenge for parents is keeping up with all the possible ways predators can gain access to your child using the latest and greatest technology and applications. According to DeFreece, the predators have migrated away from classic chat rooms to the social networking sites where the tweens and teens hang out. Other social networking media such as XBOX, “Call of Duty” provide opportunities for bad actors to gain access to your child. By integrating into the child’s on-line gaming environment and engaging him, they can earn your child’s trust.
While there is greater public awareness of Internet predators, parents need to be especially clear about ground rules and protections involving wireless devices. According to DeFleece, he is not seeing as many predator crimes perpetrated in face-to-face encounters; rather it is more common for predators to engage children in cyber-sex communications involving the transmission of sexually explicit photos – which translates as child pornography.
1. Set up ground rules early, and establish clear benchmarks for your child (age and maturity) for increasing autonomous use of the Internet. The really young children 10-15 years of age typically lack the sophistication of a 16-18 year old. So it will be important to limit your child’s access to unsupervised access to Internet-powered applications involving social networking, texting, etc.
2. Don’t purchase fully oaded phones with cameras and Internet access right off the bat. Your child’s first phone should have basic ability to make and receive calls for the purpose of keeping in touch with the right people. The mobile phone services also offer parental controls for which phone numbers you can receive and send. This is one way to allow your child to demonstrate responsible use of the phone as a start.
3. Explain to your child the responsibility of operating the mobile phone and the process over time to train and demonstrate good judgment. Just like preparing to drive a car.
4. The Wi-Fi capable phone should be the holy grail. Something that your child achieves after experience and demonstrated good judgment.
Dealing with tech savvy kids (podcast: Sharon Cindrich, Plugged In Parent)
May all your “banana moments” be rewarding as well as challenging.
Joanna Jullien firstname.lastname@example.org
Joanna married her high school sweetheart and over the past 25 years they have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from UC Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture) and has over 20 years experience as a professional manager in information technology, manufacturing, energy and environment. Joanna writes on parenting in the 21st century, as she has observed and personally experienced many strains on the parent-child relationship with the advent of the Internet, mobile phones and popular culture.
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