The days of “stranger danger” have evolved as kids are now consistently communicating online, and many don’t know who is on the other side of the screen.
“It’s normal. It’s normal to be talking to people that you barely know, or don’t know at all,” said Emma Lupe, a junior at Colonie Central High School.
Dr. Adam Morris, a pediatric psychologist at Albany Medical Center, said the internet completely changed the landscape for parenting.
Data shows on average, teens spend about seven hours a day on social media.
What You Need To Know
- Data shows that on average, teens spend about seven hours a day on social media
- The FBI has teamed up with Dr. Adam Morris to tackle a rise in sextortion of teens online and how to help parents navigate these dangers; they say scammers can target kids as young as 10
- Morris said scammers are often young adult men in their 20s and 30s who are savvy with computers, disguising themselves online as other teens, making it easy to outsmart kids
“They have this superwoman or superman complex where they don’t think they can be affected by it, but it’s real,” said Morris. “Rather than have a false sense of security on the way you wish the world should be or the way we want it to be, than what it actually is and then prepare them for it.”
The FBI has teamed up with Morris to tackle a rise in sextortion of teens online and how to help parents navigate these dangers. They say start early with speaking with your kids, as scammers can target kids as young as 10.
Janeen DiGuiseppi, special agent in charge in the FBI’s Albany office, says the spike in cases is startling.
“Is your kid’s privacy more important than your kids’ lives?” said DiGuiseppi. “That’s why parents need to know what their kids are doing. Know what their passwords are. Know what apps are on their phone.”
Morris said the scammers are often young adult men in their 20s and 30s who are savvy with computers, disguising themselves online as other teens, making it easy to outsmart kids.
“If you’re handing the keys to a teenager to drive, you’re going to have rules on how to use the vehicle,” he explained.
It’s why parents need to be aware and in control of their kids’ conversations on their phones, on social media and even video games.
“The problem with a digital platform is, it’s forever. So once they make an error or screw up — as we know they will, because they’re kids — it’s forever,” said Morris. “The parents or the caregivers always remember it is your device, not your child’s device. And you’re allowed to take it, and you should, especially if it’s being used inappropriately.”
He said a good idea for families is to write up a contract of how to use the devices. Morris said it’s important to write in detail about what apps they’re allowed to download and when and where they’re allowed to use it.
“Having something specifically stated: ‘If you’re coming to me because you are on uncomfortable with something that happened on this device, you will not be in trouble for this,’ ” he said.
Morris said it’s also important to be open with your kids about what to do if they find themselves in trouble online.
“Part of what happens in some cases is that kids get in too deep and they don’t know how to get out. And they think they’re going to get in trouble for something that was done to them,” Morris said.
It’s common that in these crisis situations, teens will turn to their friends first for help, which Morris said could be a good thing.
“There are kids that will talk to each other about it, and that’s good because you have a network of friends that you can talk to about it. But I hope the next step is that you would bring an adult into the conversation,” he said.
He added that’s why all kids need to know that it’s important to report what’s happening, and to know you are a victim if it happens to you.
“We want every child to know if you do this, you are not in trouble. It’s the person targeted you, that extorted you, that’s the person that we’re going after,” said DiGuiseppi.
Morris said a lot of decisions, like what age to allow your child online or what social media they use, is really up to the parent’s discretion. It’s mostly about monitoring the usage they do allow. If you find out your child or someone they know os being exploited, the FBI says it’s important to report it.
They say do not delete the profile or any of the conversations online. And do not pay any money or give in to the demands of the predator.
And it’s important to report it; call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.