Your Digital Footprint Matters

As the average teen spends seven to eight hours a day consumed with technology. It may not be surprising that the not-for-profit KidsMatter wanted to draw awareness to online safety. The group held a program for parents at Naperville Central High School called “Your Digital Footprint Matters,” where a panel of experts offered advice for protecting kids from cyber bullying.

“KidsMatter believes that this issue is a critical one for our community and our role is to connect parents and students to resources to help them deal with at-risk issues,” said IdaLynn Wenhold, Executive Director for KidsMatter. “Cyber bullying is one of those issue.”

Sarah Migas works in the high-tech crimes unit of the Attorney General’s office. Her presentation centered around the importance of teaching children to be responsible digital citizens. But first, parents have to be more familiar with social networking sites themselves.

“If used properly as a parenting tool, it’s really a mirror into our kids lives that will help guide conversations with our kids,” said Migas, Internet Safety Specialist.

Detective Rich Wistocki of the Naperville Police Department investigates roughly 120 cases of online abuse each year.

He discussed the dangers of cyberspace and how easily predators can take advantage of children through social media and online applications. He urges parents to monitor their kid’s activity on the web and says smart phones should not be allowed in the bedroom at night.

“When you allow your kids to bring their phones into their bedroom, you’re letting predators into their bedroom,” Wistocki said. “Would you do that normally? Leave the door open, ‘Hey predator come on in and do whatever you want to my daughter.’”

Parents can use software called TrueCare, which monitors activity on social networking sites, alerting parents when certain words or phrases are used, often relating to sex, drugs, or violence.

“The beauty of that it is that it forces you have to a conversation with them about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable,” said Mike Skarr, a TrueCare Advisor.

Some parents came to the forum because they found their teen’s online and texting conversations to not only be unacceptable, but frightening.

“They seem to be desensitized on the language that’s used on the different online networks,” said Naperville mom Laurie Wright. “It just concerns me.”

Parents who missed out can watch the entire program on NCTV17. Check our website for air times.

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