In Wisconsin, two 12-year-old girls sit in prison, waiting to be tried for the attempted murder of a girl who was once their friend. They lured her into the woods and then stabbed her 19 times before running away and leaving her for dead. Why? Slender Man.
A fictional character who has drawn a wide, mostly teenaged following since its creation in 2009, Slender Man is the subject of seemingly endless online stories and videos. A faceless man of odd proportions, he is typically depicted as stalking and abducting children. However, perhaps the most frightening thing about Slender Man is that, despite his wide-reaching, youthful audience, most parents have no idea who he is.
In today’s technological world, Slender Man is just another case in a frightening trend: unmonitored online activity of children. In a world where nearly anyone or anything can lurk with minimal barrier between them, the potential consequences are terrifying. In honor of National Online Safety Month, we have put together a list of actions you can take to keep your child safe in the cyber age:
- Talk to Them – The overwhelming response from experts on this subject matter is to talk to your kids. Maintaining a relationship that fosters open communication will help them feel comfortable coming to you when problems arise. If they know that they can confide in you without fear of the consequences, they will be much more likely to keep you involved in their increasingly independent day-to-day lives.
- Set Expectations – Setting boundaries is a necessity as a parent. Just as there are rules involving curfew, what can be watched on TV, or using the car, there must also be rules about online activity. Expectations should be set beforehand and what is and is not acceptable online behavior and consequences should be both understood and enforced.
- Google Them – All but the savviest internet users leave an easily trackable footprint. Google your child’s name and any known usernames once a month and discuss any photos, posts, etc. you find that are not in keeping with your guidelines.
- Parental Controls – Be familiar with the parental controls and privacy settings available to you through various websites, networks, and devices. By using these, you can not only limit the information your child is able to access but you can also limit the information available about them online.
- Be Familiar – As in the aforementioned case of Slender Man, most parents are grossly unaware of what has become popular with children online. Do your best to keep on top of the latest apps, social networking sites, and even abbreviations being used. Websites such as commonsensemedia.org will allow you to search different sites and applications, as well as read reviews from both parents and children.
The cyber age has brought us vast opportunities and solutions that could have once only been dreamed of. However, it can also be a very dangerous place and must be used cautiously. While children may underestimate the potential dangers that await them online, parents know them all too well. Following the simple tips listed above will help keep the lines of communication open and your children safe from online risks.
With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to help keep you and your loved ones safe. If you have recently been injured and would like to speak with someone in our office, click here to request a free evaluation of your case.