Protecting Your Kids from Facebook Stalkers - Fox 2 News Headlines

Protecting Your Kids from Facebook Stalkers

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One of the biggest concerns that parents have expressed about Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media is that it may expose their kids to predators.  This fear became a reality last month for the Cable family out of Bangor Maine.  If you are not familiar with the case, you can read more about it here.  The essence of the story is that a boy wanted a girl.  She said ‘no' so he pretended to be a friend of hers on Facebook and used that identity as a way of communicating with her.  Then in some Cinderella story straight from the halls of an insane asylum, he decides to disguise himself and kidnap her.  He would then ‘find' her and become a hero.  This hero status, in his warped mind, would be the key to getting her affection.  Tragically, during the kidnapping, poor 15-year old Nicole Cable died.  Luckily, the police were able to trace the evidence back to the boy – Kyle Dube – who now faces murder charges. 

 

But how did this happen?  How did a 15-year old girl get lured into this sick, twisted scheme and pay for it with her life?  And more importantly, what could her parents have done to possibly prevent this tragedy?  As social media continues to be an ever larger presence in our children's lives, how can we allow our kids to enjoy the benefits of these new technologies while still keeping them safe?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Learn about these new technologies!  You've heard the saying ‘if you can't beat them, join them'.  Well folks, social media is here to stay.  Not only is it sticking around but it will become THE way that your kids will communicate as they progress into adulthood.  So learning more about these new technologies will enable you to better communicate with your children and will help you to more easily identify potential threats.  Start slow and take on one new tool at a time.  Hint:  once you have Facebook and Twitter down, check out the next wave: Instragram, Vine Video, and Ask.fm.
  2. Join the conversation.  No, (please!) don't comment on your kids posts and try to be one of their friends.  But DO require that your kids ‘friend' you on all of their social media sites and not block you from seeing any content.  Now check their posts regularly (daily is ideal) to see what your kids are saying, who they are talking to, etc.  If something looks inappropriate or suspicious, talk you to child off-line about it.
  3. Change the topic:  These new technologies require new conversations.  Chances are good that your child has already heard of Nicole Cable, so talk about it.  Openly discuss some of the pros and cons of social media. Since you are now an expert on this topic because you've completed Step 1 above, you can do this.  See how all of this advice flows?  Gee, I'm good!  But seriously open new lines of communication about choices your kids are making online, who they become friends with, etc.
  4. Establish new rules:  Like the topic of conversation, this new technology requires new parental rules.  Can your kids meet someone in person that they are talking to online?  What if you screen them first?  Or there is a chaperone present during the meeting?  Let me be clear, I am NOT advocating that your kids should be meeting people in person that they talk to online.  I AM encouraging you to think about this issue and how you want to handle it because chances are good that it will be coming your way.  So how can you teach your children to make smart choices?

 

Still have questions?  Seek out other parents, your school counselor and others in your community for assistance.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a child psychologist so don't take my advice here as official instruction but rather recommendations as someone who knows technology and kids. Sorry, I had to say that to keep the Fox lawyers happy!

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