Judge Kim Chaney talks internet safety for parents

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Kim Chaney (W.C. Mann)

Our children are our nation’s most valuable assets.  They represent the bright future of our country and hold our hopes for a better nation.  Our children are also the most vulnerable members of our society. Protecting our children against the fear of crime and from becoming victims of crime must be a national priority.  As a District and Juvenile Court Judge, Kim Chaney wants parents to know how to protect their children from the monsters of the internet.

Chaney said, “In my day, it was the man in the van with candy luring children; today that man is in the bedroom of your child on their game system, in the palm of their hand on their cell phone or tablet.”

As Juvenile Court Judge and a founding member of the Human Trafficking Task Force here in Cullman, Chaney feels an obligation to protect our children.

Advice from Judge Chaney:

What are signs that your child might be at risk online?

  • Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.  Most children that fall victim to computer sex offenders spend large amounts of time online, particularly in chat rooms.  They may go online after dinner, during the evening hours, and on the weekends.
  • You find pornography on your child’s computer.  Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children.  Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussion, and for seduction.
  • Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.  As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims.
  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.  A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.
  • Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.  Computer sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family, or at exploiting their relationship.  Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.
  • Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else.  Even if you don’t subscribe to an online service or internet service, your child may meet an offender while online at a friend’s house or the library.

What can you do to minimize the chances of an online exploiter victimizing your child?

  • Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential online danger.
  • Spend time with your children online.  Have them teach you about their favorite online destinations.
  • Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.  It is much more difficult for a computer sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
  • Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.  While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interests, it is also prowled by computer sex offenders.  Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored.  While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.
  • Always maintain access to your child’s online account, and randomly check his/her email.  Be aware that you child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail.  be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.
  • Teach your child the responsible use of resources online.  There is much more to the online experience than chat rooms.
  • Find out what computer safeguards are used by your child’s school, the public library, and at the homes of your child’s friends.  These are all places outside your normal supervision, where your child could encounter an online predator.
  • Instruct your children:
    • to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online
    • to never upload pictures of themselves onto the internet or online service to people they do not personally know
    • to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number
    • to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images
    • to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing
    • that whatever they are told online may or may not be true

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