- 7.21.10 - 9:00AM
- - by
- Cole Stryker
Child Safety Expert Explains How to Handle and Prevent Online Harassment
The recent scandal known as Slaughtergate, in which 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter achieved minor internet celebrity and subsequently came under attack by anonymous internet trolls who harassed her with phone calls and fake police complaints, is creepy enough to give any parent pause. No one wants to one day require 24/7 police protection because their kid posted a provocative video on YouTube.
But what can parents do? Lots of things, but mainly common sense.
Let's say you found out your 13-year-old daughter posted suggestive photos to her Facebook account. You may be tempted to immediately pull the plug out of the socket. (My friend's dad actually did this when he caught his kid browsing naughty websites.)
This draconian approach may have worked a decade ago, but today, internet access isn't so easy (or healthy) to limit. I got advice from Anne Collier, co-founder of ConnectSafely.org.
What happened to Jessi is a shame. But if there is a silver lining to be found, it's in the value the scenario has to parents as a lesson.The number one online safety tip is to talk with your kid about how they use digital media and technologies. Parents can't possibly control internet use all the time. Today's kids have internet on their cell phones, or they could easily go to an internet cafe if they're not allowed to use the home computer. It's all about communication.
So what did go wrong here?It's a very useful teachable moment for families. Read about the story with your kids and talk about what went wrong here.
But parents shouldn't necessarily throw out or disable the webcam for older children. It's something that needs to be monitored.Should an 11-year-old really even be talking on the internet at large about violent imagery and profanity? I don't think webcams and kids mix, period. It isn't a good idea for almost any child to have that kind of access to the universe.
So what do you do if your child comes under attack? The opposite of what Jessi's parents did.Clearly this child was not trained to use a webcam appropriately. No technology or digital media is inherently bad, but Stickam isn't a good place for kids, nor is any place you can show a body part below the waist, like on Chatroulette. These are "anything can happen" environments where you don't want your kids to be.
And as for punishment?The way the dad handled it contributed to her becoming a meme. It was almost laughable. It was so bad he's become a meme himself. Don't go online and threaten people back. It's the last thing you'd want to do. If the calls come to the house, change your phone number. If you are getting threats, call the police.
Tips for parents:The goal is not to shut everything down. The goal is to change behavior. What will it take to help a child learn something and not make the mistake again? There is no one-size-fits-all device because each case is very different.
- Talk to your kids about appropriate internet use. "Not knowing about computers" is no excuse.
- Monitor your kids' internet use. Check in on them once in a while. Check out their browsing history.
- Closely supervise your child's webcam use.
- NEVER engage with or threaten trolls or cyberbullies. If you ignore them they'll most likely go away.
Tell your kids:
- Not all of your social network friends are actually friends.
- Never put your real name, age, address, or phone number on any website that doesn't allow you to make your stuff private, like Facebook. Even then, don't friend anyone you don't know in real life.
- Don't take sexy photos or video of yourself. They will be posted all over the internet.
- If someone's mean to you online, ignore it. They'll get bored.
- If someone tries to contact you in real life, tell your parents.
- Don't antagonize anyone online. There are crazy people out there.
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