Keeping Kids Safe Online 

 A message from Victoria International Ballet Academy

 Written by Mrs. Thalassinos, mother of two young ballerinas

 

Internet – The door that never locks:

The web can be a wonderful place once we understand the dangers involved. We use it in different ways to educate our ballet students. Children can see ballet dancers in all parts of the world and freely communicate with them, exchange pictures and videos. Foreign and non-local students audition for our programs online, avoiding expensive and time consuming traveling. However, we should always remember that while the internet is like an open door to a world of great information, communication and entertainment, it can also be a direct passage to danger.

With the summer here, chances are our children will have more leisure time which they may choose to spend online.

Your children and the Internet:

With the advancement of technology, there has been a drastic increase in the number of online activities your child can engage in:

–            Online gaming

–            Chat rooms

–            Instant Messaging (IM)

–            Search engines (e.g. Google, Bing)

–            Social networking websites (e.g. Facebook, Instagram)

–            Peer to Peer (P2P) and Bit Torrent

–            Online video sharing sites (e.g. YouTube)

–   Email

–   Cell phone and texting

–   Webcams

Here are only some of the potential risks associated with the most popular activities:

Activity Potential Risks
Online gaming
  • Relationships can be quickly established through the chat component of online games, caution should be taken as children can easily be manipulated.
  • Sexual offenders may target online games that have chat rooms including interactive web games, computer and video console games, and are willing to offer “gifts” (e.g. extra lives or power) in exchange for personal information and images.
Search Engines
  • Kids may be exposed to inappropriate content online including sexually explicit and violent material
Social Networking sites
  • Children may accept friend requests from individuals they have not met in person.
  • Children do not realize that once information is posted or sent online, the sender loses control of what happens to it. Kids may send compromising images to peers without understanding that the images can be forwarded or permanently posted online.
Instant Messaging
  • Children may be directed to website links outside of the IM program (e.g. false login pages, sexually explicit material and/or violent content, etc.).
  • Youth can send compromising images to peers without understanding that the images can be forwarded or permanently posted online.
  • Sexual offenders may hijack IM accounts and coerce children/adolescents to send nude or partially clothed images of themselves.
  • Usernames/passwords can be hijacked through fraudulent login pages.
Email
  • Kids may open spam email, which may expose them to content, or links to content that is inappropriate (i.e. sexually explicit or violent content).
  • Youth may send nude images to peers without understanding that the images can be forwarded or permanently posted online.
Cell Phone and Texting
  • Photos or videos taken by cell phones can disclose the user’s appearance and location.
  • Relationships that start online and through texting seem to progress faster than they do offline. This may result in the child/adolescent wanting to meet up in person with the individual they have been corresponding with – kids may not perceive any threat or need for safety precautions. This is further complicated by children/adolescents being connected and reachable 24 hours a day on their cell phones.
  • Personal boundaries can be crossed earlier through text messaging, and very personal, sometimes sexual comments or others can raise questions.
Chat rooms
  • Kids may provide private email addresses, Instant Messaging (IM) contact information, phone numbers, physical addresses, and/or other personal contact information to other individuals in the chat room.
  • Youth may send compromising images of themselves without understanding that the images can be forwarded or permanently posted online.
  • Individuals looking to victimize children may quickly turn conversations sexual, asking kids personal questions about puberty and development.
Web cams
  • Youth may send compromising images to peers without understanding that the images can be forwarded or permanently posted online.
  • Once images are posted or sent online, the sender loses control of what happens to it. Photos/videos emailed to others can be reproduced, altered, or posted online without the subject’s consent or knowledge.
  • Sexual offenders may use previously sent images or videos to threaten a child/adolescent into sending additional sexually explicit images.

There are definitely common themes with regards to these potential risks:

  1. Yes, it is true, anything that has ever been posted on the internet will permanently be there, even if you delete it, even deleting the entire account will not remove it.
  2. Many chat rooms, social networking sites, and online gaming sites are frequented by sexual offenders.
  3. Many of these sites have “location-based services”, which function as a GPS, so the location of your child is disclosed even if your child does not give out this information.  This setting can be changed but these sites all make it difficult to change it.
  4. When your child is online, even if the webcam is turned off it can be “hacked”.  That’s right; the hacker will be able to see your child!

There has been an increase in the number of tragedies due to unsafe Internet usage in Canada alone. For example, the suicides of Amanda Todd and Jenna Bowers-Bryanton. It is absolutely essential for us as parents to safeguard our children and make the Internet a lot safer for them.

We would never let our children go swimming if they did not know how to swim.  Why would we let them roam the web without knowing what they could get into?

Parents should teach their children how to use the internet correctly. Education, arts, entertainment are all positive aspects of a good use of the Internet and other social networking sites.

To see how social media can work for your children, visit a few of the online tools of Victoria International Ballet Academy and the exam videos of our graduate student Anastasia Loskutov who received the opportunity to study at the Vaganova Academy thanks to her hard work and the great skills and training received at our Academy.

Ballet exam link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPKRAyGTOL8

Character exam links:
Part 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fF6qtpk95wQ
Part 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6HFbei4QtU
Website: www.victoriaballet.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/VictoriaBalletAcademy

Twitter: twitter.com/VictoriaBalletC