(WSPA) – As a parent, it is hard to keep up with the speed of change on the internet and the new dangers that kids face.
In this 7NEWS Consumer Exclusive, we looked into the latest trends and warnings about your child’s online safety, plus offer tech-savvy solutions, therefore, you may have peace of mind.
Heidi Witthuhn, in Spartanburg, loves to use her online platforms to spread positive messages, but at 16 years old, she already quite familiar with the shady side of social media
“The funny thing about social media that I’ve most found is, the younger you are, the more that they will come for you,” Witthuhn said.
That is something Rick Floyd, with Greenville County School’s Information Security, has seen firsthand in his days as law enforcement catching predators.
“The added dangers from when I was doing the undercover chatting is, when I was doing it there was chatting and no money, no offerings, no gifts,” Floyd said. “But now these kids can make gifts, they can make money without leaving their bedroom and that’s an incentive for the kids.”
Floyd said predators have even helped teens set up online money transfer accounts. He warns that many inappropriate requests come while teens are live streaming on sites like TikTok.
“When I first joined TikTok I got so many weird browser people looking for me, wanting me to add them and do stuff and everything and I was like ‘mom help!’ Cause they were ruining my TikTok For You Page, and I was just like, ick,” Witthuhn said.
Females aren’t the only targets.
“I’ve had several occasions of people looking for sugar babies, if you know what I mean, like older women or maybe even guys with fake women accounts that come towards me and ask me to send them images,” Thomas Tramaglia, in Greenville, said.
Then there are dangers that many kids and parents don’t even know exist.
Sites like Instagram and Snapchat reveal your precise location unless you proactively turn that off.
INSTRUCTION ON HOW TO TURN IT OFF PRECISE LOCATION
Witthuhn showed us how Snapchat’s street view was revealing her emoji in the exact driveway where we were standing during our interview.
“If they zoom in enough they can see where you live cause it actually shows pictures of your house,” Witthuhn said.
So, how does a parent best monitor a child’s phone? It takes a multi-step approach:
- third-party monitoring apps
- setting up parental controls through your carrier
- programming your wireless router to cut off a child’s phone at a certain time
Witthuhn’s mother told us she uses the free monitoring app, Google Family Link.
It not only sets time limits and tracks location but also filters what her kids can do online, what apps they download and which websites they need permission to access.
Whatever you do, Spartanburg mom, Heather Whaldrep, warns, don’t just rely on checking the phone itself.
“We will check her phone but then you’ve got the Snapchat that is where it can go away, so if someone says something inappropriate, and then it’s gone,” said Heather Whaldrep.
“It’s dangerous sometimes. So I don’t think social media is the best,” said Witthuhn.
Witthuhn’s advice to parents, kids who have to earn their freedom online gain a healthy appreciation for the responsibility that comes with easy access to a world as vast as the internet.
One more word of caution, there are even apps that disguise other apps, or hide photos.
So to prevent kids from downloading these, it’s best for parents to have sole access to the username and password for downloads.