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Friday, June 21, 2024

KidsMatter 2 Us – Tips for parents, online internet safety for tweens and teens

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Indian Prairie School District 204 hosted a Mental Health Symposium to help address the mental health needs of students and families. KidsMatter in partnership with the Naperville Police Department, Linden Oak Behavioral Health, and Fox Valley Institute, provided the Keynote titled “Protecting Our Children: Understanding and Monitoring Youth Mental Health.”

Following the presentation a parent asked, “There is always a new app. How do parents keep up with all the new tween/teen apps? Is there a place online that police department posts apps (new) and especially the ones that are used by child predators?”

Detective Stock from the Naperville Police Department shared the following:

This is an excellent question regarding online safety. Both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store offer well over a million different apps and games for their users. This creates an incredibly difficult challenge to stay up to date on the apps that are available and being used by our children. To know what apps a child is using, I encourage parents to regularly check their child’s device(s), use online parent resources/blogs, and engage in frequent conversations about online use. This is an opportunity find out your child’s interests and engage. If you need help getting started, you can find some conversation starters at the Illinois Attorney General’s online safety page for parents: illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/safer-communities.

These are some great online parent resources:

As for online child predators, there is no “safe” app. Think of the online world as being similar to the physical world. We know child predators can be anywhere (parks, stores, etc.), so we monitor where our children go until they are old enough to be on their own, and we teach our children about “stranger danger.”

Apply these basics to online activity as well: discuss online “stranger danger,” discuss what appropriate online behavior is (both your child’s and others’), create an online usage agreement with your child, follow app age requirements, only allow your child to use the internet / apps in your presence until you’ve determined their ability to follow the guidelines you’ve set for them, and set limitations on the content they can access.

Online child predators can be on any app or online game. I encourage parents to check the apps their children want to download prior to allowing them to be downloaded. I always suggest only allowing apps and games that are based in the United States. Apps and games that are provided by foreign countries do not have to comply with our laws and legal orders. This can inhibit an investigation if a child (or adult) is victimized online. Many times, offenders are aware of this and choose apps specifically because of this.

Additional important information from the Keynote and others presentations from the Indian Prairie 204 Mental Health Symposium are available at www.ipsd.org/news.aspx?id=116389. Resources are also available at kidsmatter2us.org.

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Nina Menis
Nina Menis
Nina M. Menis serves as CEO & Executive Director of KidsMatter. Nina grew up in Naperville and enjoyed raising a family in Naperville. Nina has worked in advancement for both public and private P-20 educational institutions and area nonprofits for more than 30 years. Contact Nina (pronounced nine-eh) at nina@kidsmatter2us.org or (630) 864-3974.
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