How to Keep Your Child Safe on the Internet

By: Stan Rozar, Upper School Computer Science

By definition, the Internet is a globally connected network system used to transmit data through various types of media. An Internet World Stats survey from 1999-2019 shows a formidable increase in Internet usage over those 20 years. In 1999, approximately 248 million people (0.4% of the world population) used the Internet; 2019 figures show usage by approximately 4000 million people, which is over half the world population. . These eye opening numbers clearly state the obvious, that the use of the Internet is increasing at a drastic rate year by year. I can imagine that these numbers may be very alarming to parents with regards to their children using the internet, when recent studies from a multitude of sources show that, on average, American teenagers spend six to nine hours a day with digital technology exploring various platforms (with the two most popular being social media and online gaming.) Even though social media and gaming are intended to serve as a source of positive interaction, communication, and fun, there are individuals in the world, known as Internet predators, who use these different outlets to take advantage of unsuspecting minors.

By the time a child has reached his or her adolescent years, they have heard something along the lines of “never talk to strangers under any circumstances” more than enough times, or at least they should have. Though that statement should be imbedded in a child by the time they become a teenager, contact with a stranger via internet is still much more common than one would think, due to online camouflaging and access to profiles being so easily attainable. According to the New England Journal of Public Policy, contact with online predators happens mostly in chat rooms, on social media, or in the chat feature of an online multiplayer game. Social networking websites often ask users to post a profile with their name, age, gender, hobbies, and interests. Many of these social networking sites are free and easy to use, which results in these being very appealing to online predators. As for gaming, researchers have discovered that this is just another easy way for predators to connect with children. Unlike social networks, gaming provides a unique connection composed of both a shared interest and a relationship stemmed from being on the same team, or fighting the same missions.

Internet predators often begintheir initial interactions with a child through a process called grooming. Grooming is the process by which a child predator gains the trust of a victim by building a relationship with the child and then breaking down his or defense. As I mentioned earlier, an Internet predator can go about pursuing this relationship through social media or online gaming using many different approaches. The most vital question and concern regarding these possibilities would include knowing when an online predator is either trying to, or isalready in contact with your child. If you notice that your child is spending a tremendous amount of time online and doesn’t tell you why, or seems to be very secretive about whatever they are doing on screen during your presence, those can be signs they are trying to hide an online relationship with a stranger. Also, if you happen to ask your child about their online activities and they respond in one or both of the following ways, it is vital that you take notice. They will either immediately get defensive or annoyed from the constant questioning, or they will clearly give off a nervous or anxious vibe during the conversation. Both reactions should result in immediate action taken by the parent.

There are several ways as a parent you can improve your child’s Internet safety; although none are completely bullet proof.  These simple actions, if monitored properly and consistently, can limit the possibilities of your child falling victim. For social media, the most important action you can take is checking the privacy settings for each of your child’s online social profiles. Each separate social media account generally has the same privacy settings as others, and you can choose exactly who has access to your child’s profile for messaging and viewing. For gaming, you can check the parental controls on the game console and restrict strangers from gaining access to your child’s profile. Most games that are designed specifically for kids have specified settings that aid in preventing inappropriate comments and messages. However, games that are designed for a more general audience have fewer controls, settings, and safeguards, and should require more surveillance from the parent.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do to protect your child on the Internet is to get directly involved. Having direct access to your child’s profile allows you to get a front row seat to seeing exactly what they see. It allows you to get a personal feel for other people your child are interacting with, the language that they use, and whether or not your child is at risk of being groomed. Sadly, however, states that even with all the media attention on the dangers of social networking, they still receive hundreds of complaints per year about children who have been victims of criminal incidents on social networks. My intention inpointing out this statistic is not to strike fear, but to expand awareness, and to bring additional light in taking proper precautions. With an appropriate combination of a parent’s direct involvement, along with a constant emphasis of the importance of never sharing any personal information with a stranger, I can confidently state that your child’s chances of falling victim to Internet predators will decrease profoundly.




Social Media and Your Child Part 2

By Cara Miller, CA Director of Technology

On Tuesday we discussed what social media is, today we will discuss the benefits and effects of social media.

How does Social Media make them feel?

For most users of social media, online social life and offline social life are one and the same and include similar highs and lows. The unique difference with social media is users have instant reach to a wide audience very quickly, giving kids an opportunity to magnify their lives in a way that’s different from the offline experience. Social media platforms are central to every aspect of teens’ lives, from how they stay in touch with friends, determine the popular trends and even engage with such topics as politics, music and fashion.

Are their benefits to Social Media?

Many children use social media as a means of personal creativity or expression. It allows for connections with those of similar interests.

It allows them the ability to stay in touch with friends and provides easy and instant communication. Social media allows for instant information on news, sports and other social events.

This influx of information could provide a great opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your kids about what they view and watch. Parents can make it an opportunity to discuss happenings and share how they feel about topics they have seen or read about on social media.

There are also teachable moments in how to deal with digital drama. Digital drama isn’t all that different than normal social drama, but the lessons can begin early on how to properly respond to comments or posts online. Teaching children that comments and posts created without proper evaluation of the widespread audience can be one that saves potential digital drama or harm somewhere down the road.

How much is too much?

There are no easy answers when trying to determine how much screen time or social media is enough. It really depends on the child. If your child will put the device down to pursue a more interesting hobby you are probably teaching a good balance. Less time on social media may be beneficial for some, especially becoming more intentional in how they use social media. Following people who enrich them, and adjusting notifications so that devices become less distracting, are all steps in the right direction.

Social networking provides a convenient and compelling supplement to personal relationships in life, but when we use social networks as a substitute for relationships we face the risk of voiding our lives of meaningful and valuable connections.

The answer is not a one-size-fits-all for all children when it comes to screen time and/or social media. And, the truth is, there is no exact science in raising aware, thoughtful, empathetic and self-confident children. Certainly, modeling these behaviors in our own lives is a wonderful start. There is no doubt that our children are exposed to social media, both good and bad, but the key seems to be in finding a way to ‘teach’ them how to handle the information and to process it in a healthy way.

As always, if you would like more information in how to deal with your child and social media as well as other technology issues do not hesitate to contact me at




Social Media and Your Child Part 1

By Cara Miller, CA Director of Technology

Social Media and your child

What seems like only yesterday, parents were concerned that their children were watching too much television or playing Nintendo too much. Those might still be a concern for some, but tides of media have shifted from traditional television watching to instant media via mobile devices. The landscape of media, specifically social media, make people feel connected and disconnected all at the same time. Is the exposure to social media harmful to your child, or just part of the daily landscape?

What is Social Media?

Social media is a generic term for a variety of apps used to interact and communicate with others online. Parents face unprecedented challenges as they raise children in a society that is inundated with instant communication. According to a research study by Common Sense Media in early 2018, amongst 13 to18 year old children the most popular social media tools are: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Each of these social media outlets offers a different way to share information, connect with friends, or collaborate, but it’s important for parents to note that new apps are built and put onto the web every day.

I gave them a device, now what?

If you have wrestled with questions about the effects of smartphones and social media on teens you are not alone. The moment you hand your child a cell phone or tablet you are making a choice to potentially expose them to the rapid world of media information. Honestly, denying the presence of a technology-rich society won’t make it go away. There’s a great deal of responsibility in having a mobile device no matter what the age. Of course, there are measures and parental controls available to reduce the exposure to the undesirables.

If you have a teen driver, the choice is almost one of necessity. In the above referenced research study by Common Sense Media, twice as many 13-to 17-year olds own a smartphone today than just 6 years ago (41% in 2012 compared to 89% in 2018.). During that same period, the percentage of teens who use social media multiple times a day also doubled, from 34% to 70%.

Once your child has a smart device, it’s up to you to train them on how to safely use it.  It is important for you to do your research regarding the above mentioned apps and many others.  Educate yourself on the uses of these apps and to educate your child on the positives and negatives of the apps.  In the coming blog posts, I will discuss Social Media on many levels.  Check back Thursday for part 2.

Begin Your Journey.