Experts: Parents, kids must work together to stay safe online

Published: Apr. 25, 2013 at 3:20 AM EDT|Updated: May. 5, 2013 at 3:20 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There are many ways parents can help stop their children from being preyed upon, but the responsibility to stay safe online is also up to the children.

"Sometimes we think of the Internet as some magic place and in reality, the Internet is nothing but the real world," said Joe Laramie, a cyber crimes consultant and former police lieutenant from Missouri.

Laramie says there are a million ways to hide online. You can be who you want to be even if it's not the real you.

"We need to break down the idea that what you do online is no different than what you would do if you're walking down the street," said Laramie.

Laramie educates parents and their children about choosing the right behavior and not just thinking you're safe sitting at home behind a computer screen.

"The really cool thing about the Internet is that it's neutral," said Laramie. "It's not positive or negative and it's how we use it that makes it one way or the other."

Every behavior has a consequence -- bad or good. Felecia Brown tries to make sure her adolescent sons are gleaning the good.

"If I get a friend request, I let them see it and I let them know I don't know this person. Or we're playing a game and someone will say, 'hey sexy', I don't know this person," said Brown.

"There's no age too young or too old that you shouldn't be on the Internet," said Attorney General Alan Wilson. "But there's also no age that's too young or old for you to be situationally aware because anybody at any age can be a victim by anyone."

Brown says her sons do not have a Facebook account or any other social media and she monitors what they do.

"My sons got a hold of nude pictures, pop-ups, even though we put safety nets on the Internet," said Brown.

She explained how that happened and how they can avoid that in the future.

"I don't want to shield them because if they don't learn from me they go out in the streets or with friends, whatever. I'm concerned about them learning the wrong way," said Brown.

Laramie says parenting shouldn't change just because technology does.

"On a Saturday night if your kid goes out, you're going to ask them three questions: Where are you going? Who are you going with? And what time are you coming home? It's exactly the same thing with technology: Where are you going online? Who are you talking to? And how long are you going to be online," said Laramie.

Brown has signed her sons up for classes at IT-oLogy. They learn fun, safe ways to use the Internet and even talk about jobs in the IT field.

"I don't have the all the knowledge for IT, but what I do know is to introduce them, talk to people put them in that surround where it can teach them the positive things," said Laramie.

Alicia Thibaudet hosts cyber IQ classes.

"We talk about cyber bullying," said Thibaudet. "We talk about keeping your computer's security software up to date. We talk about tracking on your phones -- how to turn that off -- how to make profiles private."

She has some advice for parents.

"Google your child's name and check the web browsing history on the computer and see where they've been because if you can catch something ahead of time before something happens, it's so worth it," said Thibaudet.

Experts say we should set expectations, follow up, and show kids the right way to make the right impression.

"So what we have to do is be sure that what we're saying, how we're treating people, pictures we're posting are all positive about us and creating a positive impression about us," said Laramie.

"We don't want to make it sound like the Internet is a bad thing," said Thibaudet. "The Internet is a wonderful thing. It connects us to the world. You just have to make sure those standards are in place so people know what they need to do to stay safe."

"Everyone has to know that personally they are responsible," said Laramie.

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