LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AG Office) - While social networking and other public Internet sites provide a sense of connection and social interactivity, these sites can create a false sense of security and anonymity online. For children, these sites can pose a threat as online predators use them as a portal for finding victims.
As part of National Internet Safety Month, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel released online safety tips for parents and their children engaged in social networking.
"I met with an Arkansas mother whose teen daughter was killed by a man police believe lured the girl using a social networking site," McDaniel said. "As a parent, I'm horrified that someone would reach our vulnerable children in this way. As Attorney General, I want to do everything I can to make sure other parents don't face the nightmare that the mother I met is enduring."
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, have exploded in popularity among Americans in recent years. According to Facebook, over 845 million users log on to its site at least once a month. Over 425 million people use Facebook's mobile products.
Although social networking sites can be valuable resources to connect with friends and acquaintances online, it is important to remember to be careful when using them because the information you post online can be used to make you or your children a victim.
- Be sure to set your privacy settings to the most secure setting available. Ensure that you're sharing information with only your friends, and not with the Internet at large.
- First and foremost, make a unique password for each social media site you use. If an unauthorized individual accesses your account, they can use it to send spam to other users, scam your friends and family, or use the information to scam you.
- If you do have your profile viewable by the public, do not post information that would let someone know that your house was empty or that you are home alone. Posting that you're leaving town for a few days could be an invitation for someone to break into your home. Likewise, if you have children who use these sites, make sure they are aware that they should never indicate online that they are home alone.
- Think carefully about what information you post online. An electronic record of what you say will likely be online forever, which might come back to haunt you in the future.
- Follow the "Front Page Rule": Don't post anything online that you wouldn't be comfortable seeing on the front page of your newspaper.
- Remember that employers, universities, and even attorneys often check Facebook and other social media sites for information that you've posted online.
Tips for parents
- Understand that if your child comes into contact with an online predator, it is not the child's fault. The child is the victim.
- Talk to your child about sexual victimization and the potential of online danger.
- Spend time with your children online. Have them teach you about the Internet.
- Keep the computer in a common room of the house, not in your child's bedroom.
- Utilize parental controls available from your service provider or use blocking software.
- Always maintain access to your child's online account and monitor email.
- Teach your children the responsible use of the online resources.
- Find out the computer safeguards being utilized at your child's school, the public library, and at the home of your child's friends.
- Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online.
- Never automatically assume that what they are told online is the truth.
(Source: Arkansas Attorney General)