22 Questions in 2022: What’s the key to keep children safe online?

Published 5:30 pm Sunday, February 27, 2022

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As the Troup County School System adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic, technology in schools was brought to the forefront of conversations with parents, students and faculty.

The Troup County community had to learn how to cope with the new technology and how to integrate it into the classroom setting. Luckily, the LaGrange Police Department was there to help answer the safety related concerns as they regularly give internet safety talks to middle schools.

Detective John Slonaker of the LPD said it is vital for parents to pay attention to what their children are doing.

“A lot of the issues we run into are children who are left unattended online,” Slonaker said.

He said the biggest problems arise when a parent is not aware of the apps or websites their child is going to.

“A lot of parents are oblivious to the evils that are out there. Primarily just pay attention to what your child is doing in the apps that they’re in, [and] the sites that they’re visiting. Check their search history,” he said.

Slonaker said he understands the struggle to keep up with the changing technology but that it is vital as the internet continues to change.

“We teach our children [and] parents, particularly my age, who maybe haven’t really kept up with a lot of the technology and the evils that are out there that are associated with the Internet,” Slonaker said.

Slonaker said the best thing a parent can do is research.

“Do some research on the apps. One of the biggest things to look for on an app is a chat platform. Most apps are going to have a chat platform now,” he said.

If a parent feels inclined to give their child a cell phone, he said he recommends a “net nanny” app that will help monitor their cell phone usage.

He also said to be aware that anonymity has both its advantages and disadvantages so research by children and parents is vital.

“One of the benefits and also one of the downfalls of the internet is anonymity. Anonymity makes people feel safe, either the victim or the suspect or the perpetrator. A lot of the kids, they’re in their rooms, they’re on a school bus [and] in school or whatever. They’re on these platforms,” he said.

“Let’s just say Instagram, for example. [They think], ‘I’m just on the phone, I’m on Instagram, I’m safe.’ There are countless ways for folks to track you down on Instagram,” Slonaker said. “What we’ve seen in the past is on a national level people get fixated on a certain person for whatever reason.”