We have all heard the stories about teens being “catfished” online [tricked by someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using social media to create false identities to pursue deceptive relationships online]. Many times the person being tricked might give personal information to the catfisher. Even more frightening are the incidences of teens being lured by these on-line acquaintances to meet in person. These instances can happen with adults as well, and sadly with children that are using social media before the mandated [Coppa Law] age of 13 years old.
“A child under the age of 13 years (U13) is protected by the Children’s Online Privacy Protect Act (COPPA). Essentially, COPPA protects a child’s personal information from being collected and shared”
One thing that we tend to overlook is online and in person relationships with people we know or know at least on a social level (i.e. a relative, a friend’s mom, a church member, a dance coach, etc.). According to NAASCA, 90% of abuse cases are by people the child knows and trusts.
It is important to know this statistic because many times as parents we allow our children and teens to have access to social media, and typically inappropriate behaviors or communications will come from people they know and trust.
What can you do as a parent to help ensure the safety of your child or teen:
1. Do not allow children under the age of 13 to use social media.
2. Know which social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) that your teens are using.
3. Know the passwords your teen uses for each social media outlet.
4. Have a discussion about catfishing, inappropriate behaviors (sending or receiving pictures of a personal nature), not giving out personal information (i.e. birthdate, address, their practices schedules and locations, etc.).
5. Know who your teen is “friends” with on-line, who they are communicating with.
6. Consider placing a text log feature on your teen’s phone which allows you access to conversations (whether or not you ever use it).
7. Remind your teen of the Grandma Rule (if you wouldn’t say it or post it with Grandma sitting next to you looking at it … it’s not okay).
8. Help your teen understand that receiving friend requests from adults that are not approved by you, or receiving communications from adults that are not approved by you is a red flag signal.
9. Talk to your school administration, coaches, club leaders, church youth leaders about their rules and policies in regards to on-line communication, and in-person communication with teens.
Here are a few more articles to look over about teen safety on-line:
Teens have much more freedom than ever today. As parents, making sure you are aware of their on-line activities and social activities, and sharing with them the potential dangers, are important steps to keeping them safe.
Assistant Director of Youth Ministries,
Wesley UMC / Bloomington IL