Why YOU Should be Teaching Online Safety!

By: Jenna Ryckebusch, Senior Programs Coordinator, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

For the past 31 years, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) has been the leading nonprofit organization serving as the national clearinghouse and resource center for families, law enforcement and the public to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent future victimization. As part of the services and resources we provide to educators, families, children and the public, NCMEC has made available and delivered thousands of Internet safety presentations to parents, young children, teens and youth-serving professionals. NCMEC’s presentations cover issues ranging from sexting to cyberbullying to being a good digital citizen. After several of our presentations, teens have approached NCMEC staff members looking for help because they were experiencing one of the issues we discussed.

According to a new study from Pew Research Center, 92% of teens report going online daily — including 24% who say they go online “almost constantly.” Just as teens are naturally vulnerable in life, they are also online. They often want to act older, crave attention and aren’t thinking about the long-term consequences their online activity may have. That’s why it’s so important for every teen to learn about online risks and have an adult they can go to for guidance.

Teens may not feel comfortable opening up to their parents, but may approach their friends or other trusted adults first. Teens may see YOU as that trusted adult, which puts you in a powerful position. If you raise the issue of online risks with teens before anything happens, they will be even more likely to come to you if they need help.*

This is why I advocate for prevention and teaching about these risks early. One of the best defenses children have is awareness. NetSmartz® Workshop, an educational program of NCMEC, offers many free resources your team can use to help educate and empower teens to make safer decisions online and in the real world. Use the following free resources to help you get started:

  • Teaching Digital Citizenship – Learn what digital citizenship is, why it’s so important, and how to teach it with this online educator training.
  • Online Safety Presentations – Deliver easy-to-use presentations that utilize the latest statistics, online resources, videos, and expert tips to empower teens to be safer online.
  • Real-Life Stories – Encourage teens to evaluate their own online choices with these videos of teens who have experienced online victimization or digital drama firsthand.
  • Tip Sheets – Distribute these after a presentation or at an event to educate others in your community about the main online risks.
  • NetSmartz News – Sign up for the monthly email newsletter to learn about tech trends and new resources.

And since June is Internet Safety Month, this is the perfect time to commit to learning more about child sexual exploitation and teaching teens to be safer and smarter online. Get started today!

*If a teen does disclose to you or a colleague that they have been victimized online, call police and report to NCMEC’s CyberTipline (www.cybertipline.org).

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