How to keep your children safe on the Internet

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By Caroline Rosacker

The GMHC Family Resource Center and the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce hosted an internet safety program at the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics (GMHC) on Monday, July 15, in the education room. 

Rick Floyd, internet safety consultant, presented the program. 

Floyd is currently employed by the Greenville, S.C. County School District working in information security within the Educational Technology  Services  (ETS) Department, located at the M.T. Anderson Support Center.

Floyd, who resides in Greenville, has over 20 years of law enforcement experience with the Greenville City Police Department. During his tenure he became the lead investigator for the Internet/Computer Crimes Department, investigating all electronic-related crimes. 

He is extensively trained in computer forensic investigations  by the federal government in Washington, D.C., and is a member of the local U.S. Customs (ICE) task force.

Floyd specializes in investigating child pornography cases and conducts computer forensic investigations. He is a member of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force.

During his time as an investigator Floyd has examined internet crimes against children by posing online as an underage child to examine criminal solicitation/enticement crimes. 

His eye-opening presentation covered the dangers of the Internet, cyber bullying and the dangers and possible repercussions of sending inappropriate images over a computer or cell phone. 

His program emphasized the importance of staying ahead of the game in a fast-paced changeable environment. 

Floyd shared with the audience, "Your children are smarter than you think. The apps they are using are exposing them to a large amount of inappropriate content. They are over-sharing their lives with 'bad guys' that are more than happy to exploit their innocence." 

Floyd shared several videos with the audience to drive home his point. "We are over-connected to our electronic devices and under-connected to each other," he said. 

He encouraged attendees to set a good example for their children. "If your attention is continually focused on your social media account and not in real-time, your children will do the same thing. If they can't get your attention there are plenty of 'bad people' online that will be more than happy to give them the attention they are not receiving from you," he explained. 

Floyd asked and reminded the audience, "Would you share everything you post on your social media account with a total stranger? What is posted on the Internet stays on the Internet forever!"

Sexting

He discussed the dangers of sexting and how quickly the inappropriate images can spread from person to person, eventually ending up permanently on the Internet. "In the past, sexting was a problem we saw at the high school level. Now we are witnessing the problem as young as the second grade! Good kids make bad mistakes," he shared. 

Internet predators

Statistically Internet predators are mostly men age 26 years and older with an average age of 45 years. Victims are mostly females ages 13-15 years old. About 25 percent of victims are boys. Many of the victims have a history of sexual or physical abuse.

Floyd explained, "These predators are professionals at luring children away from safe environments. They groom your children into trusting them." 

There are grooming signs parents, caregivers and teachers should look for if you suspect your child has had inappropriate contact with someone on the Internet.  Check if your child is receiving gifts, bus tickets, cell phones or money to purchase cell phones.  Kids will pull away from their friends or seem embarrassed when they receive a text. 

If you receive an inappropriate text, and it remains on your phone or you share it, you can be charged with possession of child pornography, requiring registration as a sex offender. 

Cyber bullying

Cyber bullying can have a profound effect on your child. Floyd impressed upon the audience, "Our children hear a lot of 'hate speech.' Kids are killing one another with words. The suicide rate is increasing each year due to cyber bullying. Kids no longer have a safe zone. Years ago you could get away from bullying. Now the bullies follow you wherever you go." 

He went on to say, "The bottom line is – step up and be a parent. Take the time to visit with your children about appropriate and inappropriate behavior online. Monitor your children's activity online and set up boundaries. Limit yourself and your child's screen time."

If you suspect your child may be a victim of online abuse, contact the The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.com or by phone at 1-800-843-5678. The tip line is the nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children. 

Additional information can be found on Floyd's Internet Safety Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/Consulting-Agency/Rick-Floyds-Inte....

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