Keeping kids safe online starts with asking questions, experts say

Local News

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Many times inappropriate behavior is happening online and parents have no idea.

“Sexual abuse is a challenge that many children experience,” says Holli Fisher, program manager at The Sexual Assault Center at Family Services in Green Bay. “That’s why we have these systems in place because it happens so frequently.”

That abuse, more often than not, is hidden inside an electronic device.

“For our area, we’re getting tips from the Department of Justice, maybe Facebook, maybe Twitter, Instagram, other social media platforms that find illegal activity on their network and we investigate them after that,” explains Lt. Jim Valley. He works in the investigations division for the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

A survey from Common Sense Media in 2019 shows more than half of all children in the U.S. have a cell phone, which is why the danger can be a real threat for kids.

“There are new apps every single day. Everyone is using the new app to communicate. Whether that continues or not. You have your usual ones: your Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook — not necessarily that they’re bad apps, but sometimes there is illegal activity on them,” says Valley.

The silver lining, according to Valley, is that many of them have safeguards in place, and teams of people, dedicated to busting any illegal activity that might be taking place.

“There’s no specific app that’s more or less compared to all the other ones,” Valley adds.

For parents, it can be especially scary.

Valley says you should be open with your kids. Questions parents should be asking themselves include, do you have your child’s password? Do they allow you to look at their phone? Did they have a change in behavior? Or change in friends?

If you can answer “yes” to any of these, it’s a good idea to start a conversation.

It’s also necessary to take a closer look at what you might be sharing online. The approach: less is more.

“Those devices contain a lot of information and you should be aware of that,” Valley mentions. “You should limit the information you’re putting on your device, or limit the information that you’re putting out.”

The best advice, however, might be the oldest words of wisdom around.

“If there’s something that you don’t know that made contact with you, stay away, because we really don’t know who is on the other side,” explains Valley.

Valley says the best line of defense is to contact your local law enforcement if you suspect suspicious behavior. Even if there is nothing illegal going on, they can help point you in the right direction.

More resources for parents can be found here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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