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The Internet has dramatically altered the way our kids interact with the world. Yes, it’s a fascinating world with all different ways to express yourself, be creative, meet people from other countries and such. But, the Internet is also a world where dark and dangerous deeds take place each day. And each day, there are new risks looming on the Internet.

What Is the Number One Mistake Kids Make Online?

The answer: Revealing too much personal information about themselves.

Kids are trusting souls. They don’t see the dangers the way adults do. They view the Internet as a fun, wonderful place full of all kinds of exciting games, information, cool videos, social media sites, and so much more. They can keep up with their favorite singers and actors. They can play games online with all their friends.

In many cases, it takes a tragedy to wake a child (and a family) up and make them realize that amongst all that fun and entertainment, there are some very real dangers lurking.

The Top 3 Dangers on the Internet for Today’s Kids are:

  1. Cyberbullying
  2. Exposure to inappropriate material
  3. Online predators (Connecting with bad people on social media sites)

Online Safety For Our Kids – Why this Matters

Today’s kids have a lot more ways to get in trouble than we did when we were children. With the proliferation of the Internet and smartphones, just about all of us can stay connected wherever we are. While this is fun and convenient for most, it represents a whole new collection of dangers for our kids. Below are a few eye-opening stats:

  • Snapchat is the #1 site for human trafficking. It’s also one of the most widely used social media apps for teens.
  • It only takes 24 hours to traffic a child from the first contact online.
  • 69% of teens regularly receive online messages from people they do not know.
  • 1 in 5 U.S. teenagers who regularly use the Internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation, but only 25% tell a parent or adult about it.

Do You Really Know How Much Time Your Kids Spend Online?

A new study surrounding the teen use of the internet conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance finds that only 13 percent of parents actually know how much time their kids spend online. This is a strong indication that parents simply aren’t doing enough to monitor and control their children’s use of the Internet. When parents are this disconnected from what their kids are doing each day, it’s a recipe for disaster.

This same survey found that 60 percent of all teenagers have created social media accounts without their parents’ knowledge. Though there are ways to limit which sites your kids can visit, most parents don’t do this. It may have something to do with parents trying to be “cool” and show their kids that they trust them. But when you think about those statistics above, how important is it to sit down and talk to your kids about internet safety?

Remember … it only takes 24 hours from the first contact for a child to be snatched by human traffickers. In many of these cases, the kids are simply never found. Despite movies like “Taken” that show a fictional account of what could happen, many parents believe this is only a movie and that it probably won’t happen to them.

“Nearly 20,000 victims are sold and trafficked each year. This number includes the victims who are as young as 5 and 6 years of age. According to UNICEF every two minutes a child is being prepared for sexual exploitation. 1.2 million children alone are being trafficked every year.”  –Huffington Post, February 2017

The article goes on to say that the number one way that traffickers find and exploit their victims is through the Internet.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office has some tips to keep kids safe when using social media in this timely Video presentation.  (Please click to view)

Additional Safety Tips for Families

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has some good tips for getting to and from school safely. From 2006 to 2015, there were 301 kids 18 years or younger who were killed in transportation-related crashes while traveling to or from school.

The School Bus

Believe it or not, school buses are the safest way to get your kids to school each day. However, accidents most often occur when children are boarding and leaving the bus. In spite of all safety measures currently being taken, kids will often get off the bus and then run across the street. Cars cannot see these kids when they do that. They just appear to dart out of nowhere. There are few other basic safety tips for those riding the bus:

  • Stay 5 steps away from the curb while waiting for the bus.
  • Wait until the driver tells you to board.
  • Find a seat right away and sit down facing forward.
  • When getting off the bus, take 5 steps away from the curb and wait until the bus has pulled away.

Walking to School?

Walking to school is good exercise, but kids under 10 should be accompanied by a parent. Teach your kids to stay on the sidewalk when possible and NEVER take shortcuts down alleys, across vacant fields, through the woods, etc. Always cross the street in a crosswalk. Be sure to look left and right. Never walk across the street while looking down at your phone. Though drivers should be paying attention, they often aren’t.

Riding a Bike?

Another fun way that kids love to use when getting to school. These days, most parents have taken the time and trouble to teach their kids “Bike Safety” but you might consider refresher courses each year. It never hurts to remind them about wearing a helmet, riding in the same direction as the traffic, and following all signs and safety laws.

Never use a phone while riding a bike! This is just as dangerous as texting while driving. The child could inadvertently drive out into traffic and be killed. Teach kids to put their phones away and pay attention to the road while riding their bikes. This will be a good lesson for them once they start driving a car.

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