Simple steps to better protect your kids from online predators

Cyber-safety experts offer advice to PBC parents

LANTANA, Fla. - Every parent can take steps to better protect their children from online predators. Cyber-safety experts say there are some simple methods to do this that parents can put into action right away.

Children these days have a mind-numbing number of web-based applications to choose from these days, which creates so many opportunities to be targeted by predators online.

Lantana mother Natalie DiFranco allows her fourth grade and seventh grade daughters to have cell phones and other internet-ready devices. Only after she put those devices in the girls' hands, did DiFranco realize just how much access and vulnerability the internet provides.

"I didn't know a lot about it, so I then have to go educate myself before I say 'yes' or 'no'," she said.

On Tuesday, DiFranco and other parents of students at Coral Reef Elementary School got new answers from experts about protecting their kids online.

The parent-only meeting was organized by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, the Palm Beach County School District and the Alpert Jewish Family & Children's Service.

"It's expanding faster than we can keep up with I think," said Robert McCauley, who is a father of two young children. Like most parents, he is fearful of the unknown. "Exposure of themselves, their pictures, their names, their identity," he said.

Experts offered up three simple ways that can help better protect kids from predators or any internet abuse.

The first is to turn off your home's WiFi router at times when your child should not be online, such as when they should be sleeping. Also, parents should bring phone or other devices into their room. Do not leave them in a child's bedroom. That, experts say, cuts off access altogether. Another tip is for parents to learn how to use any online app that their kids are using.

"We as parents really have to become bilingual," said Elaine Rotenberg, a clinical psychologist and Clinical Director at Alpert Jewish Family & Children's Service. "We have understand the internet world, sit side by side with our kids and also understand which kids are more vulnerable to potentially being victims of internet abuse," she said.

To learn more about better protecting children online, click here or call (561)684-1991.