Our children have a desire for attention, self-discovery, and validation through adolescence and puberty, and are at a greater risk than ever of becoming a victim of online predators. Every person in the world, including children, flourishes in a positive support system. With the increase and transition to remote learning, kids are spending more time away from those positive support systems, making them more vulnerable to negative influences. We can’t monitor our kids 24 hours a day, but we can gain knowledge on these issues to protect our youth while they are using technology. This information is meant for you to use as a tool, and share what you learn with your peers, and your children to ensure online safety for our youth.
If not monitored, surfing the internet and social media can be dangerous places for young people. Over the past several years, authorities have seen an increase in the number of cases involving children and teens being threatened and coerced into sending graphic images. Technology, including social media apps and gaming, is a continually changing landscape and part of the daily lives of children and teens, including at school and leisure. Predators are luring child victims online via mobile phones, computers, tablets, even video game consoles. So, how do we protect them from these online dangers? We must be educated and aware of what these dangers are and learn how to prevent them.
Make it a priority to be involved in your children’s lives. Be aware of who they are interacting with online through games and apps. Know how apps, games, and DMs (direct messaging) work so that you will know what to look for. Ask your child to show you and help teach you. They will most likely know more than many adults.
Be educated about privacy settings and share with your kids the importance of having the correct privacy settings on all apps and online gaming platforms they use. Talk with your kids about setting boundaries with their technology. Creating healthy tech habits is an important part of protecting your kids online and offline.
We care deeply about you and the children in your life and want to provide resources to help you protect them in this ever-changing digital age. This series of videos and resource guides discuss topics related to digital safety, awareness, and prevention. These are effective tools for increasing public awareness or as tools to support training for educators, law enforcement, service providers, lawmakers, engaging parents, and other community members in a dialogue on the importance of prevention and digital safety.
In our videos and digital guides, you will learn about these issues and more
Online Apps, Gaming and Privacy
Buying Drugs Online
Dangers Of Pornography
Promoting Digital Wellness
Protect Your Privacy! Protect Yourself!
Online sexual exploitation most commonly includes grooming, live streaming, consuming child sexual abuse material, and coercing and blackmailing children for sexual purposes. As technology advances, new forms of this crime emerge. Never before has it been easier for perpetrators to make contact with children. There are many different studies that say the average age of first exposure is age 8-9, sometimes “kids as young as 4” are being exposed while playing games on their parents’ devices.
Preventing online exploitation can’t be done through a single conversation, and it won’t be accomplished just by telling kids “don’t” or by restricting access to technology. Grooming can look a lot like making a friend—it might not be clear it’s happening for a long period of time. The fact is that kids are going to be online, no matter what adults do or say, and that adds a new layer of risk to growing up.
Online grooming is a term used broadly to describe the tactics abusers deploy through the internet to sexually exploit children. It can happen quickly or over time, but at its core it’s a process of exploiting trust to shift expectations of what safe behavior is and leveraging fear and shame to keep a child silent.
In addition to sexually graphic photos, be sure your child isn’t posting sensitive information like their phone number, email address, birthday, or where they live, go to school, or involvement in sports. As a parent, be careful and don’t post photos with identifiers in the picture, like your home, child’s school, or sport’s field in the background, or even photos of your child in their school t-shirts or sports uniform.
As parents, caregivers, allies, and educators, we must work every day to ensure young people feel safe enough to come to us if a decision they made goes sideways. Not having these conversations doesn’t protect them from the harm, it leaves them ill-equipped to know how to handle a problem when it happens. Building a foundation of trust, where a child feels safe all of the time, can build the safety net kids need to be able to come to you when something scary happens.
Fear of getting in trouble is a major factor in a child’s decision to avoid asking for help. Online predators and exploiters know this, and a child will often be subjected to prolonged sexual abuse rather than risk discovery by a parent. If your child has engaged in sending graphic posts, or receiving them, remain calm and supportive. Your child is likely the victim of a crime and needs your support and protection, not criticism or punishment. Consider seeking help from a therapist or counselor if any incident causes you to be concerned about the mental health of your child.
Digital Safety Video
:90 Be Smart Video
:90 Online Grooming Video
:90 Control Video
:30 Take Control Video
:30 Cyberbulling Video
:30 Friendship Video
:30 Online Grooming Video
:30 Social Media Video
:30 Online Privacy Video
:30 Real Life Video
:30 Sexting Video
If you, or someone you know, is being exploited online, contact NCMEC (National Center on Missing and Exploited Children) 800-THE LOST (800-843-5678) or report at Cyber Tipline at www.cybertipline.com. NCMEC’s Cyber Tipline is the nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of minors. All tips remain confidential. Available 24/7.
NetSmartz is NCMEC's online safety education program that provides age-appropriate videos and activities to help show you how to be safer online. We want you to be aware of potential online risks and empower you to make safer choices on- and offline.
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides support for people in crisis. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between 10 to 24. Sometimes it feels as though your struggle is being underestimated by your age. But we hear you, and help is available. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and trusted adults in your life for support. Call or Text 988 – calls are confidential.
PARENTS, CAREGIVERS, EDUCATORS
Alabama Family Central is a collaboration of state agencies and partners supporting Alabama’s families with resources, services, and more to help raise healthy, happy kids. Call Childhelp at 800-422-4453 to report abuse. For Internet Safety resources, visit Family Services of North Alabama.
The Parenting Assistance Line (PAL) provides helpful assistance to moms, dads, grandparents, caregivers, and anyone who wants to nurture a happy, healthy family. Whether you need a sympathetic ear or real resources, PAL’s specialists are there for you! Available from 9am-4pm, Monday-Friday. Call, text, or use the online chat option. Messages can be left at any time. Call. 866-962-3030.
Connect Alabama App, from the Department of Mental Health, is an important tool, offering fast and reliable service to someone looking for help. The app is available for download on iOS through the app store and for Android devices via Google play.
NAMI Alabama Crisis Line 800-273-8255.
National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) – The Crisis of Youth Mental Health
We need to listen to our young people. We need to commit to keep learning about what they are going through, and we need to invest in them. We can’t afford to lose any more young people to suicide or to allow them to suffer in silence any longer. Our young people need us — and we need them. Call NAMI Helpline at 800-950-6264 M-F, 9am-9pm CST. In a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741 for 24/7, confidential, free crisis counseling.
Thorn for Parents (Be Your Kid's Safety Net - Thorn for Parents) puts more control into parents’, and kids’, hands. They offer discussion guides for talking to kids between the ages of 7 and 17. You can sign up for text alert reminders for conversations. These provide simple ice breaker conversation starters about the most difficult topics in today’s digital world.
NetSmartz is NCMEC's online safety education program that provides age-appropriate videos and activities to help teach children be safer online with the goal of helping children to become more aware of potential online risks and empowering them to help prevent victimization by making safer choices on- and offline.
If you are aware your child might be, or is being exploited online, call NCMEC (National Center on Missing and Exploited Children) 800-THE LOST (800-843-5678) or make a report at CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.com. NCMEC’s Cyber Tipline is the nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children. All tips remain confidential. Available 24/7. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides support for people in crisis. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between 10 to 24. Sometimes they feel as though their struggle is being underestimated by their age. But we need to listen to them and let them know help is available. Call or Text 988 – calls are confidential.