Having a blog can be a fun and creative way to encourage your children to express their thoughts, exercise their writing skills, and connect with others.
However, the unfortunate reality is that a blog can also attract dangerous individuals, who may use it as a way to find out information that could jeopardize a child’s safety.
Keep the following suggestions in mind when your child is online.
1. Never reveal a full name. With a full name, a predator can easily look through school yearbooks, community newspapers, or other public resources and find out where you and your child live. In addition, providing a full name online could also lead to identity theft. To prevent this, only let your child reveal his or her first name at the most and to always abstain from revealing the full names of others. However, it can be more effective and fun to let your child make up a user name or pseudonym completely different from his or her real name for online activities.
2. Never reveal a school name. School is undoubtedly one of the biggest parts of a child’s life, so he or she will want to talk about it online. However, revealing a school name is just as dangerous as revealing a home address because predators can easily look up the school address and find your child. After all, everyone knows the hours when children are in school, so revealing a school name is like telling the world exactly where your child will be and when they will be there. Avoid this potentially dangerous blunder by having your child only use the school’s initials, like WHS or VMS, or to only refer to the school generically rather than offering any more specifics. This way, it will be more difficult to determine exactly what school your child is attending.
3. Never reveal a personal address, e-mail, or phone number. The dangers of revealing this information is obvious: you never want strangers to know exactly where you and your child live or offer them an easy way to contact you against your wishes. Home addresses and phone numbers should never be revealed online under any circumstance because both pieces of information can lead a predator to your doorstep. If your child is on a webpage that requires this information for access, just make up obviously fake information, such as putting “12345 Street St” as an address. To protect your child’s e-mail, make a new e-mail account specifically for online communication. This way, if someone begins to harass your child through that e-mail address, you can simply shut it down and open a new one. Only let trusted people your child knows in person have access to his or her primary e-mail account.
4. Never reveal a location. While it may seem innocent for your child to announce through Facebook or Twitter that they are at a certain restaurant or movie theater, that is information that could make it easier for a predator to track him or her down. Rather than using specifics, your child should keep such announcements generic, such as saying that he or she is at “the movies” rather than at any specific theater. In addition, your child should never reveal when he or she is alone, whether they may be alone at home or on a solo shopping trip, because this announces that no one is there to protect them from intruders or attackers.
5. Never reveal a future location. Just as it is dangerous for your child to reveal exactly where they are at any given moment, it is also dangerous to reveal exactly where they will be in the future, such as an upcoming vacation destination. This information can tip predators off to where to look for your child, especially if your child provides specific details like the hotel name. Avoid sharing too much by staying generic with your information before the vacation, such as having your child simply share that he or she is going to Orlando for a trip rather than sharing that he or she is specifically visiting the Animal Kingdom in Disney World. They can certainly share the exact details when they return because that location information can no longer be used against them. The key is to keep your child safely anonymous on the World Wide Web, even if they are blogging about their day-to-day life or posting updates on Facebook.
This guest contribution was submitted by Kitty Holman, who specializes in writing about nursing colleges. Questions and comments can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.