12 – How to Keep Kids Safe Online

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Keeping children safe online means that traffickers have fewer avenues to access children. Sandra Morgan and Dave Stachowiak discuss many of the tools available, and Sandie quizzes Dave to see what he already knows about online safety.

Key Points

  • Increase adult awareness and understanding of the dangers and risks on the internet for children.
  • The role of prevention and problems because prevention is not the only answer.
  • Educate children at the appropriate levels to make them safer.
  • Think about how you can reach out in your own community to improve internet safety for kids.


[Note from the Ending Human Trafficking podcast team: This episode was recorded in 2011 so the contact information provided is no longer accurate. Please refer endinghumantrafficking.org/contact for the correct contact information to get in touch with the EHT podcast.]

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Dave: You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking Podcast, this is episode number 12, recorded in September 2011. Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking Podcasts, my name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie: And I’m Sandie Morgan.

Dave: And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. And Sandie, we are just one episode away from episode number 13, lucky number 13. And it’s lucky because were going to have a chance to hear from our audience. Episode 13 is going to be an all-request show. Were going to take questions and answers from you the audience, about what you’d like to know about human trafficking. What questions and comments you had, and what you’d like to hear from Sandie in responding to your question and thoughts about how you can end human trafficking. And so before we jump in today, you’ll want to write down this email address so you can start thinking about what questions you’d like to send us so we can respond to them in episode number 13. Our email address is gvwj@vanguard.edu and that stands for the Global Center for Women and Justice, which Sandie directs and Vanguard University’s campus here in Southern California. And Sandie, they can also read out to us by phone as well.

Sandie: Yes, and the phone number is (714) 556-3610, extension 2242. And if you call, please leave a voicemail, cause we will be able to use that on the podcast.

Dave: Absolutely, so that is going to air on October 13th, the 13th of the month, episode 13, and that is going to be our all question and answer show. So start sending in your questions now so we can start considering them and get them to you in advance. Start thinking, and Sandie will start looking up resources for some of your questions.

Sandie: I’m looking forward to that one, that’s great. I’d also like to let those of you that live in the Orange County area, know that on November 19th, were going to be hosting a homeless sleep-out here at Vanguard to raise awareness of the youth who are homeless, which we have already established in this podcast, that those kids are at a greater risk of being exploited, so if you are interested in finding out more information about that, please go to our website, Gcwj.vanguard.edu or email us at gcwj@vanguard.edu.

Dave: And speaking of children, that actually brings us to our topic today, Sandie, which is making kids safe, in particular making kids safe when it comes to the internet, and I believe that I am going to be quizzed on this show, is that correct?
Sandie: This is a test day for you, Dave.

Dave: I thought it was coming.

Sandie: I listen to people when they talk about Internet safety and the kids, and I want to ask them questions, like… Because sometimes they are all about shutting down access, and if we think about the Internet as a highway, then we can draw the parallels to the roads in front of our houses. We don’t want to shut down the roads in front of four houses, even though we know that drivers’ speed and people are injured… people transport stolen goods on those roads, but we don’t shut them down. Instead, we have rules, and ways to enforce those rules. And it should be the same way with Internet safety in our own homes. We would not let a ten-year-old drive to the grocery store and home again, we wouldn’t let him cruise the Internet either. And that’s what we are going to talk about today. So, in order to assess your Internet safety quotient, Dave, we want to ask you some questions so we can accomplish four things. We want to increase adult awareness and understanding of the danger and the risks on the Internet for children. We want you to be able to understand the role of prevention and the problems, because prevention is not the only answer, and we want you to be able to educate children at the appropriate levels, to make them safer in today’s Internet culture. The world is safer, not safe. Safer. It’s like, you teach children how to cross the street but you are still worried about them, and you still watch them until a certain age. And finally, our fourth item to accomplish today is we want you to think about how you can reach out in your own community to improve Internet safety for your kids. So are you ready for the test?

Dave: I am, and before you start Sandie, I think this is such an important issue to be talking about, because five or ten years ago, people said ‘well I just not going to be connected with the internet, I’m not going to have any of those issues with my family or my kids’ or you know, any of those things that kind have been privacy concerns around the internet in the last few years, and we have really evolved as a society today, where its not possible to be disconnected from the internet for most of us. Even if we are, there are so many things around us that aren’t connected to the internet, so we should really educate ourselves and our families on how to stay safe with it, and I think back to when I was a kid, my mom had a rule that we weren’t allowed to watch cartoons… in particular, not so many things like Peanuts, or some of the more really G-rated cartoons, but anything with violence in it, and I am really grateful to that because I wasn’t exposed to a lot of that as a kid. But my friend’s parents didn’t necessarily have that as a belief, so guess what I did when I wanted to watch a cartoon? I’d go to my friend’s house and watch it. And so, it was around me. I had access to it. And I think that’s very important when we think about the Internet. Not just cutting off access, but how can we really educate ourselves and the children in our lives to really handle the internet in an appropriate way, and I think that example that you gave, Sandie, about roads, were not going to shut the roads down just because bad things happen on highways and roads, but we can really educate ourselves to be responsible about it, and I know you had some questions for me.

Sandie: Having some test anxiety, Dave?

Dave: I usually do pretty well on tests, but I haven’t studied for this test I think I’ve seen only one of these questions, so we’ll see what happen and how good my internet quotient is, so I am ready.

Sandie: Alright, so the first question… Where is the best place to locate your family computer? And you have three options: a) child’s bedroom, b) family room or c) office in the back of the house.

Dave: Funny you should ask because I’ve been thinking about this a little bit more cause my wife and I are having our first child in February.

Sandie: Congratulations.

Dave: Thank you, so I’m starting to think about these things a little more, and I think that and I have heard that a good place to put a computer that the children use is in the central area where they are not by themselves using the computer, so I’m going to say family room.

Sandie: Very good, B is correct.

Dave: Hooray!
Sandie: It is very important to have adult supervision because kids aren’t safe. It’s also critical to know where kids have access to other people’s homes, just like your mom.

Dave: Yeah, just like the cartoons at my friend’s house.

Sandie: Yeah, there you go… and at libraries, cell phones, sitting at the bus stop with their friends, getting ready for school. And did you know that you can even connect to the Internet on gaming consoles?

Dave: Yes, you can.

Sandie: So, this requires close supervision. You cannot leave your child alone next to the freeway, you would stay there and monitor their activity and that’s exactly what we have to do with the Internet. Kids need supervision.

Dave: So the computer should be in a place if the children are using it, that adults are present, adults are monitoring it, and I think that the larger point here, Sandie, is to consider wherever kids are if they are at the library or at a friend’s house, that they are in a place where they are being monitored, they are being supervised, especially young children on the internet, so just like you said, they aren’t on the highway by themselves.

Sandie: Exactly, exactly. Okay, question number two.

Dave: I’m ready.

Sandie: Which is the best example of how to protect your children when online: a) post clear, simple, easy to read rules on or near the monitor, and closely supervise your children’s activity and monitor their online activity when they access the internet from other locations, b) only allow your children to use the internet at the public library, c) do not allow your children to surf the internet without having a friend nearby.

Dave: Yeah, I’m not sure a friend is the best way to go because it depends on who the friend is, so I am going to go with A, I like A.

Sandie: Okay, I like A too… Simple, easy to read rules that are available. There are some great websites that have rules for you, netsmartz.org, also webwisekids.org, and enoughisenough.org, all of them have great rules to help you with educating your kids. And the wonderful thing about these organizations is that many of them have received federal grants to develop materials for internet safety, so it’s a really wise business decision because you are using resources that your tax dollars have already paid for, Dave.

Dave: Yeah, and one of the things I really like about, that I know you’re going to mention on this show, Sandie, and you just mentioned, is that many of these are free, and I’ll use it in quotes, cause we have paid for them as taxpayers, we’ve invested in these programs and they are there for us already, so we might as well tap into what is already there and folks have created as far as good rules, policies, procedures to utilize, and in particular for something like this, and I think a lot of parents and I know myself, going to be new parents coming up here soon, we haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about rules for kids, and internet-specific rules for kids and how we would put those together, so having a resource to go to, that is already there and accessible is huge.

Sandie: And they have used to best voices and the best practices for putting these together. Now here is question number 3.

Dave: All right, I’ve got 100% so far, so…

Sandie: You are doing well… Your children are completely safe if they only visit child-friendly chatrooms, is this true or false?

Dave: Well, I always heard in school, whenever a true/false question says completely, or all the time, that’s a sure sign of a false question, so I am going to say false because nothing is completely safe.

Sandie: And that is absolutely right, people who wish to harm children have been known to entice children in child-oriented chat rooms. I was doing a parent education conference with a local law enforcement officer who does internet investigation and he put a picture up in a social chat-room of a real freaky guy with a Mohawk and piercings and all the parents sat back and became very, very rigid and ‘oh no, my kids are not going to be allowed to talk to him.’ Then the next PowerPoint slide was a young student in a letter sweater with an armload of books, and she looked so smart, and all the parents relaxed. Then the officer said, “so you would let your kid have a conversation with this girl?” and they said, “Yeah, right no problem.” And she said, “actually, that profile is the profile of a 40-year-old… a little pudgy and with a gun. Oh yeah, that’s my profile for investigating Internet crime. We can’t assure ourselves that everyone is who they say they are on the internet and our kids need to understand that.

Dave: Wow.

Sandie: Question number four. What would you do if your children tell you that someone they met online has asked for their telephone number, and wants to meet them in person: a) take away their privileges, b) praise them for telling you this and discuss with them the reasons that it is unsafe, and then make a cyber tip line report, or c) tell them it’s okay to meet their friend so long as they know where they are going.

Dave: Yeah, I’m thinking B sounded pretty good on that one.

Sandie: Right, and the cyber tip line…

Dave: What is the cyber tip line?

Sandie: It’s a great place because that means law enforcement is going to check it out, our internet-trained law enforcement investigators. And the tip line number is 1-800-843-5678, or you can go online to cybertipline.com and submit a report. Now, this is a very important number to use, we have a lot of local police departments that don’t have a lot of resources to have this kind of internet investigation immediately available, so I recently talked to a mom who was concerned about someone who had shown up in the Facebook pages of 13-year-old girls and claimed to be a student at the high school, and when the mom did the investigation, there was no such student. So she called the local police department and they said, ‘well, we don’t really do internet investigation.’ Then she heard me speak and told me, and I gave her the cyber tip line, 1-800-843-5678.

Dave: Sandie, who runs that tip line, and how does that then get to law enforcement? Do you know? Because I didn’t even know that was available.

Sandie: its federally funded, and our innocence-lost, our police department, everyone comes to the page when it comes to investigating crimes against children, will be working. It’s a very team-oriented task force that works on internet crime.

Dave: Wow, that’s very interesting. What a great resource to know about.

Sandie: Question number 5. Of the choices below, which is the best screen name for a child? A) Katie_NY13, b) Cutelittleangel, c) Pkd_329 ….A, b or c, Dave…

Dave: I am going to go with C, and let me tell you why… The Katie_NY13 tells me that that could be a 13-year-old and that she lives in New York, so it already tells me a lot about her, the Cutelittleangel sounds like someone that internet predators might be looking for, whereas Pkd_329 sounds fairly anonymous to me, and wouldn’t be interesting to me unless I already knew who the person was, as in I already know them in real life.

Sandie: Exactly. Good answer. Good justification and a good reason for choosing that. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they create their email addresses is using the year of their birth or their city, and you want to be pretty benign, you want to innocuous. Number 6… what are the consequences of ‘sexting’ that your child may face: a) recurring embarrassment and victimization, b) damage to employment and social opportunities, c) both.

Dave: well, I am going to go with both, and unfortunately, I have heard examples in the media and stories, and unfortunately some just awful stories of how sexting has gotten kids into trouble, and in some cases, there have been suicides and its just, just a horrible, horrible situation for a young person to get into, Sandie.

Sandie: It’s tragic.

Dave: It is, so I will go with both.

Sandie: It is tragic, and it is both. This is an area where supervision is required because children don’t make good choices. They think it’s fun taking a picture, they have a Smartphone, they take a picture and then they send it without realizing the repercussions. We need to continually teach them, and this is where the basics of safety come in, we teach our children ‘don’t touch this, it’s hot.’ We teach our kids how to cross a street when they are really pretty young, and it’s not easy so you have to keep doing it over and over and over again. And it’s the same thing with sexting, because, if you go back to an earlier podcast, and you begin to understand child brain development, they just don’t make good choices.

Dave: And I’ve really been thinking about this, especially in the last few days, Sandie, my wife and I are in a book club, and we were talking to one of the mom in the book clubs and we were talking about this book called “Alone Together”, which is by an MIT professor which is about how we use the internet these days, and one of the moms was talking about how at the end of the day, their rule in the house is that their phone is shut off and that the mom or the dad then, gets to go into the phone to see what has been texted, and they don’t read everything, but they kind of spot check and monitor what their kids are texting their friends, and their kids know this, its part of their rules in their household, and I thought that was a really good example of having expectations with kids and having a system for how you’re going to monitor was really done appropriately.

Sandie: Enough is Enough has a really great set of rules and tools at internetsafety101.org, and that’s exactly what they suggest that parents agree with their kids, okay you have a cell phone, but I get to check your check messages every day, and I need to know who is on your IM checklist and make sure that they are all approved, and it’s like the mom that discovered that there was suddenly a new face on Facebook among her kid’s friends, then she was able to take action. Unfortunately, in her particular story, none of the other mothers were involved in checking in on their kids and who they were chatting with, and it’s great that there was one mom who was tuned in and who did understand these kinds of rules and tools, but every parent should become adept at doing that.

Dave: Okay, great, so I think we have a few more questions to go here.

Sandie: Yes, we do, we are now on number 7.

Dave: Okay, I am ready Sandie.

Sandie: If you are not familiar with computers and the internet, you should a) check our netsmarts411.org to help educate yourself, as well as internetsafety101.org, b) you should sit down with your children and have them help you how to navigate in the internet, or c) both. What do you think?

Dave: Well I am going to… well, A for sure. You should educate yourself as a parent; you shouldn’t just rely on your children. I think its probably a good idea to do B too, and find out what sites kids are visiting and discover there are different sites that they hadn’t shared with you, that would certainly be a flag that would come up, so I am going to say both for this one.

Sandie: Exactly, and that’s a good answer. We do sometimes think, oh we will go online and set the rules, but sitting down with your kids is really important. Of course then, when you’re not around and when you’re in the kitchen, and even though the computer is in the family room, where you are walking by, they may be on some sites that they stumbled across that are not appropriate, and some of our research shows that children doing homework suddenly have pornography that they stumble upon, because the computer isn’t set up with any kid of filters, so its good for parents to set up filters. It’s also good to get the software to track where kids have been. Some of this is available through Covenant Eyes, and some other websites and we will do a podcast on that specifically in the near future because it is really important.

Dave: All right. Question number 8.

Sandie: Question number 8… What should you do if you suspect online stalking or sexual exploitation of your child? a) Ignore it and turn the computer off, b) report it to your local law enforcement agency and the Cyber Tip Line, or c) change your internet service provider.

Dave: Well B I think, is the correct answer on that one.

Sandie: Okay, and of course, back to the Cyber Tip Line, it is 1-800-843-5678, and this is such an important thing for you to understand and know and have that information and know-how to contact them, over and over and over again when we listen to the stories of kids who have been recruited to places like Orange County or Las Vegas or New York, someone sent them a ticket to come here, and they met them online and they invited them out here, and they offered them a ‘modeling career’ or something like that. So they are out there luring them, fishing for kids who are more vulnerable, and the Cyber Tip Line can chase those people down and find them. The Federal Bureau of investigation recommends this: If your child or anyone in your home has received pornography depicting children, your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows your children are under 18, or if your children have received sexually explicit images from someone. You keep the computer screen turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use, in less directed to do so by law enforcement, you should not attempt to copy any images or text found in the computer, these recommendations are reported in parents to guide to internet safety that was produced by the Department of Justice Federal Bureau Investigation. You can go to the FBI website and download their Parent’s Guide.

Dave: And I believe that’s FBI.gov, for the FBI website that you can access that.

Sandie: Exactly, and I know that’s a lot of detailed information, but I think its really important because we panic when something like this is one our screen, and we just need to know: stop, alert somebody and let them do the investigation. And I will tell you, it’s amazing what cybercrime units can find out, and I am very impressed by their expertise. It is an important frontline on the battle against human trafficking. Wow, Dave, we have 2 more questions to go.

Dave: All right, I am ready for the ninth one here.

Sandie: Ninth one, true or false: It is okay for your children to post pictures of themselves son their own personal website, especially if they promise to only give the web address or “friend” to people that they know. True or false.

Dave: Well, their own personal website sounds like something everyone would have access to, as opposed to only their friends, so I am going to go with false on this one.

Sandie: False is the right answer.

Dave: Okay, good.

Sandie: Even on Facebook, we have to be really careful. Any social networking with pictures, we have identified situations where the picture shows the school in the background with the name on it, so someone who is able to access those pictures, and Facebook privacy rules are rules that not everybody follows, so even though you have to be a certain age, I know this is going to shock you, Dave, but kids lie about their age and get a Facebook account.

Dave: Shocking, shocking.

Sandie: Then they don’t know how to manage the privacy setting.

Dave: Also shocking, yes.

Sandie: And because they’re not really that developed, and they don’t understand the importance of those things.

Dave: Most adults don’t understand the Facebook privacy settings well enough to go in and to really adjust them. I have, for example, because I am educated in this, and I know technology pretty well, but the average person doesn’t really know a lot about that.

Sandie: It’s scary how much you can access someone’s photos and they don’t even realize it.

Dave: I’m amazed how many people have Facebook accounts set up, where I can click on, and get a lot of information about them even if I’m not connected to them in any way, shape, or form, just because I have a Facebook account.

Sandie: Exactly.

Dave: So, something to look into for everybody, not just for children, children especially of course, but the adults in our audience are thinking what the right way is really to protect themselves as well.

Sandie: And even what may seem like a harmless picture, if it provides information about location, age, school, those things are private, so you just don’t want to put those things out there.

Dave: All right, final question.

Sandie: From the choices noted below, which type of personal information is okay for your child to post on their social networking account: a) dates and details about an upcoming family vacation b) daily afterschool routine c) their favorite sports team. A, b, or c.

Dave: Well, the only one that doesn’t give a lot of detail about me personally that I would want someone to know on the Internet would be C, my favorite sports team, so I am going to go with that.

Sandie: Good answer, you got 100%. You don’t want your children to provide any personal information online that could be used to harm them or their families. Can you imagine all the precautions we grew up taking, if you go on vacation make sure someone is picking up your newspaper, things like that, then we post it on Facebook that we are going to be gone? Oh my goodness.

Dave: I am amazed at how many people tweet or blog about being out of town, and I can see Facebook, I can see if you’re connected to a certain number of people, but how many people do it on public blogs, twitter accounts where people can access anyone, and I am just always amazed by that, Sandie. We certainly don’t do that.

Sandie: So, developing privacy rules so kids understand that this is like an open window and people can see in, that’s a concept we have to train them in. and the rules and tools checklist from internetsafety101.org, Web Wise Kids has also partnered with the FBI innocence lost campaign, and they have developed some great games, computer games that are built on actual criminal cases and are acted out with live actors and our Live2Free club have used this is afterschool programs, and your organization can do this, these materials like Missing and  Mirror Image and Air dogs, and  It’s Your Call, kids have fun. It doesn’t have to be something that’s scary and intimidating for them. They just need to learn, just like they need to take Driver’s Ed before they get a license to drive on that road in front of our house, we have to prepare them.

Dave: And Sandie, are those available to anybody, and if they are, how do folks access those games.

Sandie: Webwisekids.org, contact them, they have received some incredible awards for their work, and their material has been shown to do great prevention, kids have done these games, played these games, and then gone and told their parents, ‘this happened to me.’ So, they are really cutting edge on using games to do prevention and educate so children are safer, and remember I use the word ‘safer’ not safe because kids aren’t ‘safe’ because they did this game. This is part of the process, they aren’t done and they need adult supervision. We can do prevention but we still need to protect and have rules and enforcing those rules like speed limits on our roads, like red lights and green lights, so that we are all safer.

Dave: And this really does get to our core message on ending human trafficking because this is proactive, these are things we can do to prevent children and young people from getting into these situations in the first place.

Sandie: Exactly.

Dave: Boy, that’s certainly much more productive in ending human trafficking then if we have to serve a victim after they have already been a victim and after the crime has already been heard. What a great focus.

Sandie: If making kids safer is something that you want to get involved in, you can get already-prepared presentations all set up in PowerPoint through netsmarts.org, they send you the PowerPoints in a presenter format, you take the material to a local afterschool program, to your church organization or a boys and girls club, and you take the kids through age-appropriate internet safety starting with kindergarten, first, second grade, all the way up through the high school. There are also training materials for parents. I would recommend that you see this as an opportunity to fight human trafficking and prevent the exploitation of our kids on the Internet.

Dave: Well Sandie, that just about wraps up our time that we have this week, and you have asked me a whole bunch of questions today.

Sandie: And you got 100%.

Dave: I did, I am so pleased with myself, I am going to go tell my wife, and now its time for the audience to ask questions of us.

Sandie: That’s right.

Dave: So our next episode is number 13, airs on October 13th 2011, and its an all answer and question show, so I hope you have all your question and answer skills ready to go here, Sandie, cause we are going to be taking your questions and only your questions that show, so we want you to call in or email us with questions you have about anything we have talked about here, today, anything we’ve talked about in a previous episode, and anything that relates to how you can end human trafficking. The best way to do that is by sending us an email, and the email address is gcwj@vanguard.edu, and again, that’s for the Global Center for Women and Justice here at Vanguard University, and Sandie, folks can call us too.

Sandie: (714) 556-3610, extension 2242.

Dave: And again, leave us a message if you call there and no one answers because we will take your message and we will make sure to respond to it right on the show, and in the meantime, Sandie it’s always a pleasure to talk with you, thanks for educating me more on some of these tips and tools today, and I am so excited that we have more and more resources we can use to really end human trafficking.

Sandie: That’s right, thank you.

Dave: Thanks, Sandie take care.

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