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Smart Parenting – Digital Footprints

Almost 93% of kids, ages 12-17, are online, and the truth is that kids even younger than that can easily fall victim to the exploitation in the digital age.

So what happens when you put technology in the hands of children?

“What we have found is that parents are surprised. It’s so easy for your kids to trip into them, and so if we can provide them with the safety net that says, ‘this is what you do’ and we can give them those tips, that’s what parents are finding so valuable from experiences like tonight,” said Idalynn Wenhold, Executive Director of KidsMatter.

KidsMatter partnered with the Naperville Police Department to host a smart parenting seminar to help kids and parents safely navigate their technology.

This interactive evening at the Naperville Municipal Center touched on the importance of a digital footprint, and how negative online interactions can follow kids from the moment they get that cell phone, all the way through college and into their career.

“When they give that kid that cell phone, without any control, without any monitoring software in there, they are allowing them to go anywhere in the world they want, allowing predators from all over the world to talk to their kids. And those rules have to be quick, steadfast and from the get-go because there is no such thing as privacy for children. You have to be in their devices all the time,” said Rich Wistocki, High Technology Crimes Detective for the Naperville Police Department.

“I have two soon to be, one teenager and one soon to be teenager, who both have cell phones and need to know, even though I’m a little familiar with obviously how to handle a lot of it, I need to know some easier ways to take care of it. I don’t have all day to read every text they send and need to be able to monitor what they do,” said Naperville resident Julie Lewandowski.

For parents, it’s about more than reading their text messages and searching their internet history. It’s about understanding the potential harm that can come from other websites and applications specifically used to target kids.

“The problem is that a lot of our parents, across the country not only in Naperville, suffer from a disease called NMK syndrome. The NMK syndrome stands for ‘Not My Kid’. And the common denominator amongst all the cases that we get is a parent saying ‘I never thought my kid would…’ ‘I never thought my kid would do this’, ‘I never thought my kid would do this’, well you never thought because you never checked,” added Wistocki.

It can be tough for parents to take away and look into a phone, but ultimately it’s for their kid’s protection. One way to get the conversation started is for everyone to take out their devices and share their swipe pattern or passcode.

“Several times a week I grab their cell phone, put the code in, and just start scrolling, whether they know it or not,” said Lewandowski.

If you’re looking for ways to keep your kids safe, there are programs like My Mobile Watchdog and Web Watcher to help protect, engage and educate families.

Naperville News 17’s Rachel Pierson reports.


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