Internet Safety and Electronics

The internet and electronic devices are part of everyday life for all of us, especially our children. It can sometimes be overwhelming for parents when trying to figure out just how to keep our children safe.  While there is no single solution in keeping kids safe online, the most important is communication.  More than anything else, talking with your children is the most important factor in keeping them safe. Even talking with your children can seem overwhelming. Resources to help start the conversation are listed below.

Our Kids, in collaboration with Metro Police Department, has created a few key actions you can take to keep your kids safe online.

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Gaming, Screen Time and Smart Phones:  FAQ’s

  • Is my child ready for a smart phone?

Is my child ready for a smartphone?   How do you know if your child is ready for a smart phone? A few key questions and suggestions with links to other sites regarding parental controls and apps to help you manage.

  • How can I make my child’s device safe?

Seven safety tips for every parent after a smartphone purchase

  • How do I know which apps are safe and okay to use?

Learn about Messaging appsWhat is Snapchat? What is Kik? Yik Yak? Learn about the most popular social media sites used by young people. This site provides a one page “Tip Sheet” regarding the most commons apps and the top three things parents should know about the apps.

  • How much time should my child spend playing electronic games?

Online Gaming–An Introduction for Parents and Caregivers

  • How do I know what games are safe for my child?

Safer Gaming Guide–A list of links from understanding game ratings to parental controls on the X-Box

  • How do I even begin to talk about gaming with my tween/teen?

Family Discussion Guide–A great starter list for talking with your child and setting rules about gaming and safety.

  • What about sexting?

What is sexting?  The sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone.

What are the consequences for sexting?

Socially, it can be devastating. Regardless of initial intentions or promises made to keep the images private, often images are shared. Sharing images may occur after a break-up. The images can also be used for blackmail, to force the teen to continue sending additional, sometimes more explicit images. Even when images are sent over an app that has time limited viewing, screen shots can be made of the image with another device, giving permanence to something that was intended to be temporary.

Legally, it can costly and devastating.  Currently, legal consequences are handled differently in most every state and around the world. Even within a state, consequences can vary. Some US states have chosen to prosecute minors to the full extent of the law, resulting in severe punishment up to and including the requirement to register as a sex offender for life. In contrast, other states have developed diversionary programs designed to educate teenagers and change behaviors. In Tennessee, regardless of the age of the person, having sexually explicit images of children on a device is considered child pornography. Child pornography is a felony sex crime with long lasting legal consequences. Currently, there is a group of individuals working to present a bill in 2016 that would created specific and less severe consequences for sexting; separating it from the category of child pornography.

Educationally, children and teens can be suspended or expelled from school as a result of sexting.

Is it really that common?   27% of teens claim sexting is frequent and normal.  58% of teenagers feel that it is safe to post photos or intimate details online.

What do I do if I find out my child has been sending or receiving sexually explicit images?

First and most importantly, DON’T PANIC. It’s scary. Your reaction will likely influence your child’s reaction and the additional information they are willing to share. Because every community handles the situation somewhat differently, here are some general guidelines to use when you are unsure of what to do:

When your child has received or sent nude images from an adult:

Take your child’s phone/device.

DO NOT delete images or messages.

DO NOT contact the person. Even to say “I’m the parent, stop contacting my child”.  This will provide an opportunity for deletion of images and possible other contacts that have received the images.

Contact your local police department and let them know what is happening.

When your child has received or sent nude images from another minor:

Take your child’s phone/device.

DO NOT delete images or messages.

DO NOT contact the other child.

Contact the school administrator and/or School Resource Officer. Most schools have policies on how to handle this type of situation.

Internet Safety and Electronics Online Resources

While this list could be overwhelming, we’ve tried to limit the resources to the most common questions and concerns mentioned by parents. Some resources listed provide links to additional topics.

Clean up your digital footprint–What is a digital footprint? Almost all of us have one. Parenting today’s tech savvy kids can seem overwhelming. But you can do it! Take these seven simple, though still challenging steps, to becoming a good digital parent.

Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)–is an international,non-profit membership organization working to develop a safer Internet by identifying and promoting best practices, tools,and methods, including a family online safety contract.

Internet Safety 2014 Resource Guide–This guide contains a list of “go-to” trusted organizations and websites to address many of your questions and concerns. You can find websites with a brief description of what each site offers. Topics include; cyber-bullying, alcohol and drugs, sexting, social networking, suicide and self-harm.

Missing and Exploited Children— The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® opened in 1984 to serve as the nation’s clearinghouse on issues related to missing and sexually exploited  children. Today NCMEC is authorized by Congress to perform 22 programs and services to assist law enforcement, families and the professionals who serve them.

Downloadable Documents

Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online

Support Groups for families in need of counseling regarding child sexual abuse.

Catholic Charities of Tennessee
Phone: (615) 352-3087
Provides services for Middle Tennessee including family and individual counseling.

Crisis Line-Answered 24/7: 1.800.681.7444
For appointments and other questions:
Phone: Nashville area 615.460.HELP (4357)
Toll-Free for Tennessee 888.291.HELP (4357)
Centerstone is the nation’s largest provider of community-based behavioral healthcare, offering a full range of mental health services, substance abuse treatment and related educational services in Indiana and Tennessee.

Family and Children’s Service
Crisis Line: 800-879-1999
Phone: (615) 327-0833
Offers individual, family, group and couples therapy; located in Nashville.

Lloyd C. Elam Mental Health Center
Phone: (615) 327-6255
Located on the campus of Meharry Medical College, the center offers intervention to treat the emotions and behavior of children, youth and families.

Nashville Children’s Alliance
Phone: (615) 327-9958
Offers counseling and support groups for victims of child sexual abuse and their parents.

Oasis Center
Phone: (615) 327-4455
Provides residential, counseling and education services to teens and their families.

Sexual Assault Center
Crisis Line: 800-879-1999
Phone: (615) 259-9955
Provides individual, group and family therapy for rape victims, child sexual abuse victims, adult survivors, and relevant family members with centers in Nashville, Clarksville, Dickson, Dover, Franklin, Paris and Winchester.

Vanderbilt Community Mental Health Center
Phone: (615) 936-3555 | Children and adolescents: (615) 322-7782 | Adults: (615) 322-7785
Outpatient assessment and treatment services are provided to children, adolescents and adults.

Online Resources
Provides health information for kids, teens and parents. Provides teenagers with information about their changing bodies, sexuality, ways to stay healthy, school, jobs and friends.

Downloadable Documents

A Visit To The Our Kids Center
Feeling Fine: A Girl’s Guide to Good Health
Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet
What to Do If Your Child Discloses Sexual Abuse
Coping with the Shock of Intrafamilial Sexual Abuse
Sexual Development and Behavior in Children
Understanding and Coping with Sexual Behavior Problems in Children