RANCHO SANTA FE — After hearing Jon Moffat’s presentation on Internet dangers for children, no one could blame a parent for throwing their child’s computer and mobile phone out the window.Moffat called the wireless world “the wild west,” and encouraged parents to stay on their toes while monitoring their child’s activity.
“The only filter that truly works is your eyeballs,” he told parents.
Parents shuddered when they learned what could happen to their children by simply using their mobile phones and computers while communicating with their friends.
“I think it is beneficial to be informed. I want to be aware,” said parent Karen Buss. “You want to be able to protect your kids the best you can.”
Moffat, a cyber educator from Vista Community Clinic, gave the presentation, first to parents on April 24 before speaking to children in the fourth through eighth grades at R. Roger Rowe School in Rancho Santa Fe.
Moffat was able to touch only the tip of the iceberg where dangers are concerned.
He urged parents to teach their children to “protect their digital reputation,” because what they do now could come back years later haunt them.
“I’m trying to teach the kids that once it is out there, it’s out there,” he said. “There is no privacy. It’s still there and can come back to bite them.”
He said kids think “my parents haven’t killed me yet,” they are safe, but parents are the least of their worries.
Moffat said if a child has been online, visiting various sites or has played games online with strangers, he can almost guarantee the child has been approached by predators.
If you think your child is safe because you have told them not to answer questions like their age, sex or location, these predators know how to ask leading questions to determine those answers, he said.
He said he tries to get kid to realize if a stranger approaches them online, it is the same as if he they were sitting on their couch in their own living room and a stranger suddenly appeared in person and asking, “What’s up?”
The chatroom Chatroulette is supposed to be used for networking with photos.
“I tried it and the first seven photos were of penises,” he said. “If a guy did that to you in a park, you wouldn’t be laughing,” he said.
Even photos a child takes can located by GPS photo tracking, which can place the location within three feet of where the photo was taken.
“If you’re taking photos on vacation, that’s cool, but if it’s Christmas morning at home, not so much,” he said.
Even a child’s Facebook account is not safe. If a child has 200 “friends,” it takes only one to pass on sensitive information or photos or other information such as “Happy 12th Birthday,” or “Sorry you’re home sick today,” he said.
And on the other hand, kids are not always honest about what they are doing online.
Moffat said he frequently gives presentations to classes and has asked:
“How many of you have sent something you wouldn’t want you parents to see?” He said 99.9 percent said they have.
He said a rule of thumb is to keep everything “G” or “Grandma rated.”
“If you don’t want your grandmother to see it, don’t send it,” he said.
Moffat said some girls make the mistake of thinking they are in a loving, monogamous relationship sending nude photos to their boyfriends, some who pass it on electronically to friends.
The same applies to Skype. He said he knew of an instance when a boy convinced a girl to undress. She did not know, the boy had invited a group of friends for an audience.
“Twitter is the new bathroom wall of the 21st Century,” he said.
Cyber bullying is a trend. The difference between being bullied on the playground verbally and being bullied online is that the whole world sees it he said.
“There is no place to hide,” he said.
He said the Android Marketplace is not regulated. Some sites are secure and some are not and some are used to gather information about children.
Moffat said Google could literally rule the world because it knows what people are browsing and what they are thinking even before it becomes a trend.
“They own you,” he said. “They know everything you’re doing.”
He said youths communicate by social networking, blogging, web cams and video, cell phones, file sharing, video games and e-mail, which includes instant messaging and chat rooms. Each has its own set of pitfalls for a child.
Even parents who play close attention to what their children are doing online can miss a lot.
Some children who are technologically smart can hide a great deal from their parents with such tactics as using white font for things they don’t want them to read and black font for the things they do.
Parents need to realize that kids live in a different world and speak a different language,
Moffat said the best place to discuss Internet safety and to determine if a child has been approached and how they handled it is in the car because there is no eye contact and no opportunity to walk away, he said.
“You can ask them ‘What is the craziest thing you’ve seen on the Internet?” he said.
“You need to be aware,” said Jamey Schouten, a parent who attended the talk. “The more you know the better off you and your child will be.”
To learn more about Moffat’s presentation, visit facebook.com/CyberEducators.