By ANTHONY QUINN
An internationally celebrated day, Safer Internet Day was established 18 years ago to bring attention to making the internet a safer place. This year’s theme on Feb. 9 in the United States is, “The Internet starts with I.” Connect Safely, the facilitator of this program, is asking everyone to think about “What I can do to make the internet better?”
At the Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office, we are continually asking that question, particularly when it comes to protecting our children and ourselves from internet predators. According to Crimes Against Children Research Center, 1 in 25 youth in one year received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact. With children having more access to the internet because of e-learning and staying connected to their friends due to the pandemic, adults must be more vigilant than ever to help protect them from these predators. Talk to your child about the risks involved with being online. Educate them about how to stay safe on the internet.
According to www.internetsafety101.com here are a few signs to look for in your child:
• Becoming secretive about online activities.
• Becoming obsessive about being online.
• Getting angry when he or she cannot get online.
• Receiving phone calls from people you do not know or makes calls to numbers that you do not recognize.
• Receiving gifts, mail, or packages from someone you do not know.
• Withdrawing from family or friends.
• Changing screens or turning off the computer when an adult enters a room.
• Begins downloading pornography online.
Being proactive in educating our children is a great way to help protect them. Below are a few tips to share with your child from the Crimes Against Children Research Center to help protect them from online predators:
• Be smart about what you post on the internet and what you say to others. The web is a lot more public and permanent than it seems.
• Provocative and sexual names and pictures can draw attention from people you do not want in your life.
• Adults who talk to you about sex online are committing a crime. So are adults who meet underage teens for sex. Some teens think it might be fun, harmless, or romantic, but it means serious trouble for everyone. It is best to report it.
• Do not let friends influence your better judgment. If you are surfing with other kids, do not let them pressure you to do things you ordinarily would not.
Finally, parents, check your child’s privacy setting on their social media accounts and consider installing parental control apps on your child’s device. “71% of teens have admitted to hiding what they do online from their parents, including clearing browser history, minimizing a browser when in view, deleting inappropriate videos, lying about behavior, or using a phone instead of a computer,” according to Jamie Le in “The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents.” Educating your child and yourself about internet safety could save you and your child from anguish later. If you would like more tips to follow, please go to https://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2630.htm.
Not only are we concerned about the safety of our youth on the internet, but also our elderly population. Both young and old alike are frequent targets of internet predators. Predators often play on the emotions of the elderly. Below are a few tips from the FBI to help keep our elderly population and your loved ones safe while on the internet:
• Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
• Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
• Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
• Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account.
• Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts and monitor accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.
As we pause on Safer Internet Day to discuss potential online dangers, I hope the people of our community will have an increased awareness of how to protect loved ones from internet predators. If you suspect that someone is a victim, please take the following steps in response:
Call local law enforcement, including my office at (812) 482-5725.
As your Prosecutor, I will continue to educate the public, and investigate and prosecute internet predators if cases should arise in our community. As always, we will keep the needs of crime victims at the forefront to help them receive the essential services necessary for recovery.
Anthony Quinn is a Dubois County prosecutor in the 57th judicial circuit. He can be reached at email@example.com or 812-482-5725.