Cyber Safety To Protect Your Teen
By: Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company.
In September 2016, 29-year old Darren Michael Brown from Anderson, CA plead guilty to ten felonies, including extortion and lewd acts with children. For the full story, see the Record Searchlight article from October 18, 2016
Brown was arrested in November after police accused him of obtaining thousands of pornographic photos and videos of minors all over the U.S., alleging that Brown threatened the children to extort pornographic selfies and videos. Brown used popular online messaging apps and websites to connect with his victims, including kik and MeetMe.
Online predators have become well informed as to what their targets will fall for. By pretending to be a teen near the same age has the target, predators immediately build a sense of comfort between their fake persona and the person they are trying to solicit for revealing photographs. Being a vigilant parent is no longer enough; with the emergence of anonymous messaging apps and websites, as well as programs that send temporary photos that are “deleted” immediately after being opened, cyber safety has never been more important. The culmination of knowledgeable perpetrators and easy access to teens that are easily persuaded by a few strokes of the keyboard has led to an increase in inappropriate content being shared anonymously.
Parents need to be aware of their children’s online activities, but it can be difficult to gain access to your child’s devices and allow them to maintain a sense of privacy. To protect your child from online predators, it’s important that you establish an open and ongoing dialog with your children about the permanence of any posts, images or videos sent electronically. Even those they think to be friends can forward a private message or post a video never intended to be shared.
Help your children to understand that the Internet allows predators to hide behind anonymity, creating false profiles that mask their true intent. Discuss what they should do if anyone ever attempts to blackmail them online, and encourage them to come to you without fear of punishment if they ever find themselves in a position where they’re uncomfortable or feel threatened.
There are multiple programs that can help parents monitor their kids’ online activity. NetNanny is one of them, but Nerds on Call recommends TeenSafe. For $15 per month, this website and app allows parents to monitor texts, calls, and social media accounts across all of their devices. It takes less than 5 minutes to sign up and can help parents prevent any unsafe situations for their children. The ability to see who a teen or child is talking to allows parents peace of mind even if they are miles apart. There is a multitude of free apps that can provide different levels of cyber safety, so it is best to do your research and find out which one is best for your family.
Mike: The arrest of a Shasta County man who was blackmailing teenage girls into sending him pornographic selfies got us wondering in this age of constant online contact and ever changing ways to connect on social media, how can parents protect their children? KRCR News Channel 7’s Madison Wade talked with a local expert today and she’s in the newsroom. Madison.
Madison: Mike, Darren Brown was arrested Thursday for soliciting young teens from all over the country. He’s in jail tonight on multiple felony charges including sexual offenses with a minor and child pornography and investigators tell me that they believe that he was doing this for several years with little in the way to stop him. Investigators tell me Brown used kik.com, illegal.com and meetme.com for the most interactions with his victims. Once he convinced a girl to send him one provocative photo, he would use that photo to bribe them into sending even more explicit photos by threatening to use the photo to embarrass the girl publicly. Each of those websites he uses a classic chat room. It connects you to a stranger that can be anywhere in the world. We talked with Nerds on Call in Redding today. They say predators are smart. They do their own research before prying on minors. They want to seem relatable so they try to fit in.
Shawna: Most of the people that are perpetrating these scams are people who are usually adults pretending to be a teenager. They are savvy and are able to sort of suck a teenager in by pretending that they’re their age or they know and that’s where they get that information.
Madison: Shawna says there is something very easy that parents can do. Use an online parental monitoring system. Net Nanny is one, but Nerds on Call recommends one called Teen Safe. It’s an app and a website that allows parents to monitor their kids texts, calls and social media accounts. It costs $15 a month and works with cellphones, computers, Droids and tablets. Well we signed up and it took us less than three minutes to join. There are also many other free apps with parent monitoring systems and they all do different things. It’s best to research which one works best for your family. I’m live in the newsroom. Madison Wade, KRCR News Channel 7.