A cyber-stalker actually requires very little information to be able to have a big impact, so in this post I aim to highlight the ways in which we can prevent these predators from affecting children (as well as ourselves) and the steps to take to be the safest we can be.
Quite simply researching the internet about the internet itself is an extremely useful way to stay in-the-know. Keeping up-to-date with all the latest apps, websites and all other technology will make sure that you know how things work and the signs to look out for when something’s not quite right.
A key factor is making sure that privacy settings are set to an appropriate level. The likes of Facebook allow you to alter which groups of people you wish to see what you post e.g. friends, friends of friends, public etc. The more information you make available, the easier you make it and more at risk you are of being a cyber stalker’s target. When creating or updating your profile, bare in mind how much you reveal, such as:
- where you work
- how exact a location of ‘home’ you give
- your age / date of birth
but also be careful of the photos you put up:
- do any perhaps show a car registration?
- do any have a picture of your house in them? does it show a street name? a house number?
And now social networking sites allow you to activate GPS to show where you’re posting from at any given time. If this is activated while you’re at home for example, it’s making you a very easy target indeed.
It’s important that children also know exactly who they’ve got on their friend list. Often children will see the number of friends they have as a value of popularity and so someone they may class as a ‘friend’ may actually just be a far away acquaintance or a friend of a friend of a friend etc. Sometimes friend requests will even come in from someone whom the child may not actually know but may still accept them because in their heads – “why not?”. This should not occur.
Always release anonymous addresses where possible (on sites such as Ebay) and if for whatever reason you need to meet up with someone, then an older person – parent or guardian – should always accompany.
And finally, basics such as installing reliable web filters and safety software can play a big part in preventing children ever coming into contact with ‘the bad guys.’
Importantly, children must be aware of the dangers and why the precautions are being taken. If they can understand the seriousness of the threat, then that’s half the battle won, so to speak.
Much more information can be found online regarding keeping children safe whilst social networking. Don’t take the risk.
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