NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Just 10 years ago, the solution to keeping children safe online seemed pretty simple to Special Agent Scott Augenbaum with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I would always give advice to parents and tell them to put your computer in a place where people can see it,” he told News 2.
As technology evolved, Augenbaum said almost all young children suddenly had access to a cell phone with internet capability, allowing them to instantly access social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
The agent said it further blurred the lines between real and virtual friends.
A father himself, Augenbaum has spent his time visiting schools to preach the important of online safety.
“A decade ago, I would ask children, ‘How many of you guys know more about technology than your parents?’ And a decade ago, 50 percent of the kids raised their hands,” he explained. “The question I ask the children today is, ‘How many of you guys can do whatever you want on your smartphone and your parents don’t have a clue?’ And I get 80 to 90 percent.”
Augenbaum also said sending sexually explicit text messages, or sexting, has even reached middle school students.
“Kids are taking inappropriate pictures of themselves and they are sending them to their boyfriend or their girlfriend, and from there, what are they doing? The boyfriend or girlfriend is sharing with friends, and it’s going on and going on, and the next thing you know, these pictures are popping up on websites over in Eastern Europe, and we’re getting the calls from the parents to go take them down, and we can’t take them down,” the FBI special agent explained.
The pictures are online forever, and many of them are embedded with a code that even allows strangers to pinpoint the exact location where they were taken.
So the question becomes: how do you protect your school-age children?
For the answer, Augenbaum directs parents to NetSmartz.org, a site that provides countless tips for online safety.
Some of those tips, according to NetSmartz, include:
- Learn about popular social media apps children and teens are using.
- Ask your child to check their friends list to see who can see their accounts.
- Teach your child about the importance of privacy settings.
- Encourage your child or teen to report inappropriate online images.
“Am I saying to go out there today and rip your phones away from your kids? Absolutely not. But you are going to have to understand that there are bad people on the Internet who want to hurt our children,” Augenbaum said.
Though technology continues to change, Augenbaum said the goal remains the same – keeping children safe.