Published 11:24 am Monday, March 20, 2023

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Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal reminds all parish citizens that crimes against children occur online just as they do in real life.

Children online present challenges because of their innocence, curiosity, and desire for independence.  Common dangers encountered by children online are cyber predators, bullies, and identity theft.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, has the following tips for parents on keeping their child safe online:

  • Be involved – Supervise your child’s online activities while teaching them good computer habits. Consider online activities you can work on together.
  • Consider implementing parental controls – Restrict or allow certain websites to be viewed on your computer only by using a password.  Also, you can set some parental controls within your browser.
  • Keep lines of communication open – Let your child know they can approach you at any time with questions or concerns about behaviors or problems they may have encountered online.
  • Keep your computer in an open area – It is best that computer activities of children occur in a highly visible area to prohibit hidden viewing opportunities.
  • Monitor computer activity – Be aware of what your child is doing online.  Know which websites they are visiting, who and what they are emailing, etc.
  • Set rules and warn about dangers – Ensure your child is aware of the boundaries of what they are allowed to do on the computer.  Boundaries should be appropriate for the child’s age, knowledge and maturity.

The Agency also has the following tips for children on how to stay safe online.

  • Keep your personal information private – Avoid sharing your name, address, telephone number, birthday, passwords, and the name of your school when online.
  • Keep it locked – Always lock your device when you are not using it.
  • Choose alternative screen names or email addresses – Use a screen name or email address that isn’t your real name.  Instead of Jack Smith, consider using something like “Sk8boardKing*75” or some other combination of letters and numbers that do not reveal your true identity.
  • Create strong passwords – Include eight characters or more that use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols when creating passwords.
  • Speak up if you see something inappropriate – Don’t ignore inappropriate online content.  Tell an adult you can trust.
  • Think before you click – Don’t open emails from strangers and don’t click on links for unfamiliar websites.

“These are just a few common sense tips for helping our children avoid possible trauma that awaits them on the internet which allows child predators to reach out from around the world.  A predator in another state, or even another country, may not be able to physically touch a child, but they can implant images that may haunt that child for a lifetime.  Let’s be the parents we should be.  Let’s protect our children from any danger, including hidden dangers lurking on the  world wide web.”