The online threat to kids is real. The recent report about a Filipino boy who was playing Minecraft and chatting with what he thought was a young boy but was actually an adult who was asking personal stuff about him proves this.
More and more kids are online—all the more parents should remain vigilant because the web is a vast and sometimes dangerous place for kids. It's so real that moms are not standing by worrying, wondering if the next victim could be their children.
For the past five years, mom Sonya Ryan of Australia, has made it her mission to help make sure children stay safe online. See, in 2007, her daughter Carly fell victim to a child predator she met online—and she wants to make sure it doesn't happen to other kids. "I have made that choice to fight and to do what I feel my daughter would have wanted, to prevent crimes and to find ways to keep people safe," she said in an interview with Huffington Post Australia.
Carly, then 15, met an 18-yeard-old emo boy named Brandon Kane. After 18 months of chatting with him on the Internet, she finally agreed to meet her "dream boyfriend" in person. As it turned out, Brandon is actually Carl Francis Newman, a middle-aged pedophile. He lured Carly to the beach where he attacked her and then dumped her body in the ocean. Newman has since been convicted and is serving a 29-year jail sentence without parole.
In her daughter's memory, she founded the Carly Ray Foundation and is actively campaigning for online child safety. In line with her lifelong mission, the foundation in partnership with digital specialists KOJO created THREAD, a safety app for kids. It uses a GPS tracking device to allow users to "check in" their location and tell their family that they are okay. It also has an "Alert" that automatically calls for help and sends her location details. If the user does not check in—even if she only forgot to do so—the app automatically sends an alert.
“The reality is that not everyone has the right intentions, with this app we can potentially prevent crimes from happening. If Carly had this technology, the outcome may have been different for her,” Ryan said in an interview. The THREAD app is already available for free on iOS and Google Play for residents of Australia.
Currently, there is no THREAD app equivalent that kids can use here in the Philippines. Until then, it’s important to teach your kids about online safety. Michele Santos-Alignay, M.A., a registered psychologist and lecturer at the Miriam College Department of Psychology, and co-author of Growing Up Wired: Raising Kids in the Digital Age, stresses that parents should be firm and refrain their kids to never accept friend request strangers to prevent “leaving contact details in different sites” and “having digital footprints." “Teach your child to stay safe online by never indicating where exactly he or she is at a certain point in time,” she adds.
Kids should know better to treat the digital world like the real world. Kids are still vulnerable to attacks even if they’re just at home in front of the computer.
Sources: October 28, 2015. “Mother creates child safety app after daughter killed by online predator” (sheknows.com) October 27, 2015. “Mother of murdered teen Carly Ryan hopes new app Thread will help protect young people” (news.com.au) October 26, 2015. “New Safety App Thread Created In Memory Of Murdered South Australian Teenager Carly Ryan” (huffingtonpost.com.au)