NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — From school work to chatting with friends, the internet and social media are constants in students’ lives. With all of these platforms, how do we protect kids from the dangers of the cyber world?

The back-to-school series at the WAVY Digital Desk continued with a conversation about internet safety with FBI Norfolk. Digital Host Sarah Goode spoke to Supervisory Special Agent Stacey Sullivan about how to keep kids safe while navigating online. Watch the conversation in the video player on this page.

Sullivan said one of the best defenses to protect children online is equipping them with necessary tools to handle the internet. Adults won’t always be present when kids are online. They need to know how to use it safely on their own.

In the age of much more than one popular platform, she suggested being educated about what is out there. Sit down with children and learn what they are using.

“Just have conversations, let them teach you about the apps they are on,” Sullivan said. “Let them teach you about that online gaming forum, and be open to learning about it, so you can ask follow-up questions on their interests. Because this is something that is new to a lot of parents.”

It’s important to know how they are using the internet, who are they talking to and what are they sharing.

Sullivan said the less people share on the internet — the better, especially to someone they’ve never met. People can use private information against them.

“A parent could go through social media with their child and say who are you talking to?” Sullivan said. “How do you know that person? When was the last time you saw that person? Or, when’s the last phone call you had with that person?”

If a child can address the questions, then they probably know that person in the real world. If they can’t answer those questions, Sullivan said it should sound alarm bells. Then, that might be someone they should not be speaking with.

FBI Norfolk does not want parents and kids to shut down an online presence, but arm them with tools to be safe on platforms.

Sullivan offers other tips for safe practices:

  • Create google word search alerts to flag certain words and explain to children why these might be dangerous or inappropriate.
  • Shut down devices at night. Keep technology in a space away from kids at night, so they are not using the internet in a private or unsafe way.
  • Use sites like Take It Down to flag photos online, if images get in the wrong hands.

If children fall victim to sextortion or anonymous profiles online targeting information, Sullivan said to seek help. Police departments and the FBI can assist and effort to track them down.

Here are some resources listed below.

FBI Safe Online Surfing

Take It Down

FBI Norfolk Helps Parents Teach Internet Safety to Kids

Watch the full digital conversation in the video player on this page to learn more from FBI Norfolk.

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