Guest Blog: Facebook Is Now Like The ‘Bad’ Part Of Town

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In our latest guest blog, Internet safety expert Russ Warner, CEO of ContentWatch, makers of parental control software Net Nanny, talks about the dangers of Facebook and our kids.

Continue reading Russ’ tips below about protecting our teens against online risks.

Facebook is Now Like the ‘Bad’ Part of Town

A recent report links Facebook to over 1,000 criminal offenses last year. (Source)  And that startling figure doesn’t include a larger number of crimes that go unreported.  For example, fewer than 1 in 5 cyberbullying incidents are reported to law enforcement. (Source)  If that’s the case, the number of crimes occurring on Facebook could be at least 5 times higher.

Seasoned criminals and a number of not-so-savvy law breakers have taken the cyber jump because it’s potentially easier to find victims and get away with things when hiding behind a computer or phone screen. It’s hard to track online offenders and the number of criminal cases linked to Facebook is on the rise.

What’s going on?  A few examples:

  • A registered sex offender used Facebook to befriend a 14-year-old girl. He then later persuaded her to meet up with him and he eventually asked her for sex.
  • A husband posted nude photos of his ex-wife on Facebook after a messy divorce.
  • Teen boys post nude photos of a classmate on a social network after receiving the image via text message.
  • A young girl was told by her peers that she would be physically attacked if she didn’t upload nude photos of herself on Facebook.
  • Teen girls in Virginia were lured to a local shopping mall by gang members posing as “friends” and were kidnapped to be put into the sex trade.

More: Families that Tweet Together, Stay Together

What’s Facebook doing about it?

When confronted about the criminal dangers that Facebook has created, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, stated, “There is no place for harassment on Facebook but, unfortunately, a small minority of malicious individuals exist online, just as they do offline.” (Source)

Sadly, that is the truth; there will always be a group of individuals that take advantage of a good thing to abuse it for their own criminal use. It’s nearly impossible to search out this small group of online criminals, including those on Facebook.

Is the problem real?  A few examples:

  • Kids spend more than 7.5 hours a day connected to digital devices. (Source)
  • 88% of parents know their teens communicate with people they don’t know offline. (Source)
  • 30% of teens worry their online behavior will get them in trouble at home. (Source)
  • Over half of pre-teens and teens have been bullied online and most don’t tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs. (Source)
  • Cyberbullying victims are more likely to have low self esteem and to consider self-harm or suicide. (Source)
  • 1 in 5 kids ages 10-17 have been solicited for sex online and 75 percent didn’t tell parents. (Source)
  • Predators found a victim’s “likes” and “dislikes” online in 82 percent of cases. (Source)
  • 65 percent of predators found info on home and school and 25 percent of predators found a victim’s whereabouts at a specific time. (Source)
  • 1 in 20 kids say they’ve met up with a stranger they met online. (Source)
  • 1 in 3 teens have sent or received a sexually explicit message. (Source)
  • 46 percent of kids 11-17 year old say a friend has received a sexual picture. (Source)

MORE: Social Media & Inappropriate Content For Kids

What can a parent do?  A few examples:

  • Talk with your child. Only 50 percent of kids say parents talk with them about online risks.  (Source)
  • Monitor your child’ time online. And 44 percent of kids say parents monitor their time spent online. (Source)
  • Check your child’s Facebook profile. Only 30 percent of parents check on a child’s social network profile. (Source)
  • Set ground rules. About 90 percent of kids think it’s OK for parents to set rules for phone use. (Source)
  • If your child is being bullied, take quick action.

For social networks specifically, there are software tools today that allow a parent to monitor a child’s Facebook activities.  Some options include Social Shield, Net Nanny Social, and Social Guard. These tools allow parents to monitor a child’s pictures, posts, and friends and can facilitate being alerted to dangers.

MORE: Should Parents Determine Their Child’s Apps?

Knowing about your child’s online activity and creating an open dialogue are great starting points. But, resolve to take action.  Protect your child from being a victim to online criminals.

_______

Russ Warner is CEO of ContentWatch, makers of the top-rated parental control software, Net Nanny. He is used as an expert source in local and national press and speaks and blogs regularly on the topic of Internet Safety. Warner has been quoted in or written for articles found on CNN, The NY Post, Forbes, HLNtv, and is a columnist on Huffington Post. He has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. ContentWatch is actively involved in Internet safety campaigns for the local media and a national audience of customers. (The opinions expressed in this article are his own.)

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