Safer Internet Day; Keeping kids safe online

ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) – The internet can be a wonderful place with lots of great information. It can also be a dangerous place, especially for children.

Technology is and continues to be a part of children’s lives.

“The normalization makes it so that there’s not really an emotional connection,” Cat Morgan with Fierce Freedom said.

February 8th marks Safer Internet Day and Morgan wants to bring awareness to children sharing explicit images online.

“I mean it’s akin to trading baseball cards,” Morgan said.

Morgan says the consequences aren’t being talked about enough.

“Let’s say you meet them online, you really don’t know much about them at all and even it’s someone you do know, they’re angry at you and they can turn on a dime and they can actually threaten to post that video of you on social media and they can definitely make good on that threat,” Morgan says.

Altoona school resource officer Timothy Peterson says it’s happening here.

“We’ve unfortunately have had cases like that here where, you know, somebody sends an explicit photo and then before you know it everybody in the school has it or has seen it,” Peterson said.

Morgan warns sextortion can lead to other forms of manipulation, including sex trafficking.

“They’re thinking oh I don’t want my parents to find out, I don’t want my friends to find out, I’m so ashamed and so that shame drives them to secrecy so it turns into blackmail essentially with that person now could force them to engage in a commercial sex act as a minor,” Morgan said. “Unfortunately we know that’s something that people are purchasing.”

Peterson says parents need to talk with their children about their life online. Which means being truly engaged.

“Checking their phones, making sure you have all the passwords, making sure there are no hidden vaults on the phone that you can’t, you know, see what’s going on,” Peterson said.

Morgan agrees.

“Help to develop their own filter and make their own decisions I think is really good,” Morgan said.

Morgan adds that children need to know they have support in case they do end up in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.

Fierce Freedom offers what it calls Fierce Parenting.

It’s a weekly series of videos and resources to help parents navigate their child’s online presence.

To learn more, click here.

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