Parents of middle school students in Wall Township, New Jersey received letters warning them about “a person sending text messages to our students under the guise of a teenage girl named Alainai.” The letter informs parents that through texting, Alaini learned where the students go to school, where they lived and asked to meet them offline.
According to police, one student was asked to meet the sender at a local restaurant and Six Flags Amusement Park. As the investigation continues, police have reported that similar messages have been received in other areas.
Often times phone numbers are listed online in connection with social media profiles, which make it even easier for predators to research our personal information, such as activities, family members, information about our children, etc. Armed with this information its easy for the predator to connect the dots which could potentially lead our kids to believe that they are personal friends and/or family members.
“I have a portfolio online, my resume is on there which has my phone number. It’s available. So I wonder if someone is trying to do something with that number, how easy access it is I guess,” pondered one area resident, Kate Ferrara.
Although this story may cause fear and concern, this is a perfect opportunity for parents to speak with their children about online safety and for the adults to check their own social media profiles to ensure they aren’t sharing too much information.
Quick Tips to Keep Children Safe Online:
1. Have the conversation. The best way to keep your children safe online is to talk about online safety and talk through scenarios like this story. It’s imperative that children understand that they are NOT to respond to text messages from people they don’t know.
2. Make it Plain. Set a clear definition of a “friend” or a list of acceptable people to communicate with. As mentioned some predators may lead your child to believe they are personal friends of the family, which makes it even more important to “spell-out” who your child can speak with via text.
3. Conduct a Social Media “Information Sharing” Check. Make sure your child is not sharing any personal information online. Take some time to review your child’s and your own online profiles to ensure you aren’t sharing personal information and that your security settings are set accordingly. Many teens share their information with people they think are “safe,” however my rule of thumb is: DON’T SHARE ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION via Text or Online. If the person is a family member or friend, they will have all the information they need.
4. Parents sharing personal information online. Often times parents have their cell phone lines connected to their child’s which means your child’s phone number could be one digit different then yours. Consider that the information you post online such as resumes with your cell phone number, could trigger predators to “try” to connect to your child. I know it sounds crazy, but for some predators this is a full time job and they can be relentless.
Having conversations with your teens about online safety and social media responsibility, could be a life saving decision and you don’t have to be “technical” to do that.
Marlin Page, “Chief Technology Mommy,” serves as an Online Safety Evangelist exposing “real life” internet and social media stories impacting children around the world and providing practical tips to empower parents to keep their children safe on the Internet while encouraging teens to use social media responsibly. Marlin is a Globetrotting Speaker, Founder of Sisters Code, STEM Advocate, and thought leader on bridging the racial and gender gap in technology and eliminating the digital divide. Marlin’s book and music CD, “Always Believe,” empowers girls to love themselves, believe in themselves, and celebrate their uniqueness. Also known as the “Excuse Annihilator”, Marlin created the “No Excuses Movement” line of T-Shirts.
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