When it comes to parenting, there isn’t a book to show us how to navigate each step, especially in the world that we have today.  School shootings, online predators, drugs that look like candy…and those are just a few of the real conversations we need to be having with our kids.  I'm a parent with three kids and my own personal story of online safety issues.  To stay educated myself, I went to the meeting on Tuesday that the Rochester Public Schools hosted along with the Rochester Police Department and came away with a lot of helpful info that all parents really should know regarding keeping our kids safe online.

I used to think that since my kids aren’t on social media and we have parental controls in place on everything, my kids were safe. I’m also pretty tech savvy and know a lot when it comes to social media and the dangers associated with it. I thought we had it under control. I was wrong.

One of my kids was playing an online “safe” game while he wasn’t in our home, almost daily. Conversations were taking place with an individual through that game that were definitely not appropriate for a child and most adults would have found them to be repulsive. According to Captain John Sherwin, "situations like this happen all of the time in Rochester."

At the meeting, Tuesday, a variety of experts were available to speak with the community, including the school liaisons and Captain John Sherwin with the Rochester Police Department, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), Superintendent Mr. Munoz, and the Executive Director of Operations for the school district, Scott Sherden.  Below are some tips that they shared to parents and community members relating to online safety.

What can parents do to help keep our kids safe online:

  • Research devices before you buy them. Know the security settings that are available for each device.
  • Establish rules and guidelines. What websites and apps can your child use? What are the consequences if that rule isn’t followed?
  • Look at your child’s cell phone. Be an informed parent and make sure you can get into the device (fingerprint, password) and do random checks. You also need to know that there are spoofing apps that can hide other apps so make sure you know what you should be looking for.
  • Talk and educate your child on how to stay safe on their devices. Let them know what to do if they are approached by someone online or if they see something that is inappropriate.
  • Remind them that anything that is placed online can’t be taken back. Their digital footprint is being created and is something that can’t be erased.
  • At night, have the child’s devices out of their room or turn off the wifi in your home during those times. You can also set up router filtering during times you, the parent, might be sleeping. Many issues with online safety have been occurring while parents are thinking children are sleeping, but in reality, they are online.
  • Follow your kids online.
  • Educate yourself! There are many resources out there but the sites that were recommended to view were the following:

Parents, I know it is a lot of work and this is a very large topic to try to tackle, but know that there are many useful tools to help you keep your kids safe online. Use the Rochester Police Department, the school liaisons, and the school system as part of the team. They are with our kids every day and want to ensure the safety of our kids as well…and they probably know a bit more than most of us when it comes to online safety.

I’ve been the mom that has had to speak with the police department as a result of my child not being safe online.  Educate yourself today on the dangers and use the tips above so you don’t have to do that for your child.

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