Parental involvement key in childhood Internet use

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Recently, a 14-year-old boy from North Mississippi went missing after speaking with a stranger on the social app Discord, AP coverage states. The boy was later discovered to have run away from home with a stranger and later located in Illinois after turning himself in.

Nearly every social media platform has some kind of chat option including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other popular platforms. Some even have video and voice chat services, like Facebook’s Messenger app.

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Discord is a voice, video and text service specifically for those who play video games.

According to a release by Discord, “All chats are opt-in so that the user must accept an invitation, and we urge our community only to chat with individuals whom they know. We have also created a number of security measures to help block unknown users from contacting others.” There are more ways to access the Internet than a phone or computer – newer video game consoles typically have the ability browse the Internet.

“Because the nature of the Internet is so anonymous, it is easy for people to misrepresent themselves and manipulate or trick other users. Adults often fall victim to these ploys, and children, who are usually much more open and trusting, are even easier targets,” an article by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team states.

Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Shane Tucker said children shouldn’t be given unfettered access to the Internet. Adults should employ parental locks and filters to help regulate what children have access to, Tucker said. Even if the locks are enabled, Tucker said parents still have the responsibility of checking the activity on a child’s device to ensure their safety, he said.

“Children don’t understand the dangers that are out there, but we as adults should,” Tucker said.

Anyone who thinks their child is speaking to someone suspicious should report it to law enforcement, Tucker said.