Parental tips to protect children online Published Jan. 31, 2023 By Special Agent David A. Shaver OSI Internet Crimes Against Children Operations Manager, Liaison Officer QUANTICO, Va. -- With the rise of digital technology, protecting children online has become more important than ever. In 2020, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC, reported a 97.5 percent increase in online child enticement reports. This means online predators are targeting more and more children. Social media and other digital platforms can be dangerous, so parents must educate themselves on the dangers of social media and other digital platforms. Here are some tips for parents to protect their children from online predators and keep them safe: As a parent, educate yourself and your children about the dangers of the internet. Talk to them about the potential risks of sharing personal information and interacting with strangers online. Parents can use free resources from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) such as NetSmartz to help educate their children about online safety. By following these tips, you can help keep your children safe online and protect them from the dangers of child predators and sextortion. Keeping an eye on and communicating about online safety is an ongoing process. It’s critical to always monitor your children's online activity. To help you with this, parents should use parental control software such a Norton Family, Bark or Aura to track your children’s internet usage and monitor the content they’re viewing. Parents should also set boundaries and rules for internet use with their children, like establishing clear parental guidelines for what websites, apps and social media platforms are allowed in your home. Strongly encourage open communication between you and your children regarding their online activities. Let them know that they can come to you if they encounter anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Remind your children they should never feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell you if they have been a victim of online exploitation or abuse. Also encourage them to be cautious about sharing personal information online. Explain to them that their name, address, phone number and other personal information should not be shared with strangers. In addition, tell your children they should never meet someone they have met online in person without you or another trusted adult present. Ensure your children know once something is posted online, it’s essentially there forever. Be open and honest with your children. They need to know that personal information and photos posted online can be very hard to remove and can be seen by many people – including bad people who may want to harm them or other family members. Because of this, make sure your children know never to send explicit photos or videos of themselves to anyone online, even if they feel pressured to do so. Parents should also make sure their children know that not everything online is true. Teach them to verify information with you and be skeptical of content that seems too good to be true. Again, by following these tips, you can help keep your children safe online and protect them from the dangers of child predators and sextortion. Remember, online safety is an ongoing process and requires constant communication and monitoring by parents. For more useful information, check out NetSmartz at: https://www.missingkids.org/NetSmartz .