SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way children worldwide learn, socialize and communicate — that’s why Gingerbread House, a nonprofit focused on the youngest victims of abuse, wants to make sure parents are armed with knowledge for the benefit of their children’s safety.
“Our world has changed in the last year, children are now doing everything virtually,” said Alex Person, a forensic interviewer and the director of education at Gingerbread House. “Children will get distracted, they’ll start searching different things, going to different YouTube sites, downloading different apps...”
To make sure parents and children alike are aware of some of the dangers of the web, Gingerbread House offers an internet safety presentation.
“We have presentations for children directed for fifth grade through high school...and then we have presentations directed towards caregivers, so you can learn how to protect your child and educate your child on internet safety,” Person said.
Person added one of the goals of the course is to teach children how to get out of potentially precarious situations online.
“People who they communicate with on the internet are not always who they say they are,” she explained. “Say someone sends them an inappropriate picture or message...how do I report that? We want kids to understand it’s not their fault and they’ve done nothing wrong.”
In an age of ‘likes,’ ‘comments,’ ‘hearts,’ and ‘DMs,’ Person believes it is easy for children to become trapped in a false sense of reality and approval.
“Children truly believe that anyone they talk to on the internet is automatically their friend,” Person said. “They get caught up in this internet trap that sometimes our offenders will look for children through.”
If a parent, teacher or organization is interested in this course, email Alex Person at APerson@GingerbreadHouseCAC.org.
Here are some helpful ideas for parents from the Gingerbread House on protecting your children online:
- Educate yourself on what apps and websites your child uses
- “If your child is into a certain app or game, research it. If your child has a certain phone, research it. Figure out what your child is on and then know how that works.”
- Clearly communicate with your children about internet expectations and rules
- “Communicate what those expectations are and then educating the entire family. As long as there is open communication and children know what the expectations are, they know what the consequences could be should they break the rules.”
- Have grace with your child if they make a mistake, use the mishap as a teachable moment
- “They might do something that they are not supposed to, but as long as they’re honest and they’re coming to you, have a little grace.”