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Keeping Your Children Safe Online Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Keeping Your Children Safe Online

Online gaming, instant messaging and chat rooms let children communicate with friends and family members with ease. However, these popular tools also allow kids to connect with people they’ve never met, making them vulnerable to online predators, cyberbullies and scam artists. On Wednesday, March 18 at 11 a.m., chat online with experts and learn about the risks; ways to educate children about the internet; and applications that are available to help protect children in Fairfax County.

Andrea Khoury : Good morning. I am Andrea Khoury, Consumer Specialist with Fairfax County Consumer Affairs.  James Bacon, Supervisor of the Child Exploitation Squad for FCPD, and I are here to answer your questions this morning about keeping your children safe online.

Worried Mom : There is so much going on out there and so much to teach my kids about when it comes to safety online. If you had to boil it all down to three tips or pieces of advice, what would you emphasize to kids who are navigating the online world?

Andrea Khoury : 1. Old fashioned advice works: Never talk to strangers. If you don't know who is on the other end -
2. Enforce appropriate content and pictures. If you don't want your pictures or texts to show up on social media, don't sent it out in the first place.
3. Never say or put anything on the internet that you wouldn't say or share at the dinner table. Even if you think you're sending out a private message, once it's online it can be shared.

Anonymous User : What are some common dangers children face online?

James Bacon : Common dangers might be bullying from friends to luring people or kids from a site they want to be on to one they shouldn't be on, all the way up to becoming a cyber victim such as having things posted they don't want on line, to actually going and meeting a stranger that ends badly

BusyMom : My 9 year old says "all" the other kids in his class have smartphones, and he desperately wants a phone. I don't want him to have a phone yet. What is a good age when kids can be responsible enough to have a phone?

Andrea Khoury : Many parents face difficulties with the issue of getting a child a cell phone. Just remember that when you hand a child a phone, it's a powerful communication tool. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely spread across the internet.

Think about: How independent is your child? How responsible are they? Are you comfortable with your child being geo-targeted on certain apps?

There is no "correct" age to get your child a cell phone - it's up to you as a parent to decide when you are most comfortable.

Anonymous User : Not that I want you to give away your tactics, but can I assume that detectives "train" to act as teens in chat rooms to lure predators? Is there anything about predator behavior from those experiences that you can share here? Thanks.

James Bacon : Yes, our detectives get training from a number of places to include the FBI, but our agency is also one who is on the forefront of this time of investigations so we end up training other agencies on how to conduct these type of investigations. Also technology is evolving so fast that we are constantly training. What I would tell you about the predators that kids and parents should look for is what we call "grooming" which is where a predator will start out asking for simple things from a kid and, if successful, will graduate to more serious things...and this is done by the predator reassuring the kids that what is happening is all right...also anybody who says "don't tell your parents" is an obvious red flag. Lastly I would tell you that we do not "lure" predators, we just make ourselves available on these chat rooms and let the conversations go where the other person leads us.

Anonymous User : Do you have any software suggestions that would help keep kids safe online?

Andrea Khoury : There are many free apps that help keep your child safe online. You can check out: Kids Zone, SecrureTeen, ScreenTime, and Norton Family parental controls which showcase only approved apps, prevent your child from downloading apps, and set a schedule for using the mobile device.  

You can also restrict wifi router time by not allowing your child to connect during certain hours.

Delores Symonette : As a therapist working in the field of counseling, how do I teach my clients/parents how to recognize online child predators who pretend to be friends but who may be sex traffickers?

James Bacon : It is very difficult to recognize a predator and the internet is full of them. I would say that its easier to keep an eye on your kids and pay attention to the sites they visit and what goes on on those sites rather than try to recognize a predator. But a couple of common things they can look for are strangers making simple requests and if successful, then asking for more inappropriate things...also anything that a person asks for that includes a line about it being a secret or "don't tell your parents" is a huge red flag. Bottom line, kids should not be chatting with anyone that they don't know. For my generation it was "don't talk to strangers" that still applies even though with the internet its much tougher

Cynthia : How can I get a report of all predators in my area and surrounding areas?

James Bacon : Here is a link to the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. You can search by name, address, zip code, etc. Great site that we use all the time and contribute to...

Anonymous User : Teenagers seem to have a short attention span for anything that resembles a lecture. What would be the 3 "don'ts" for teens?

Andrea Khoury : Talk about credibility.

1. Not everything you see on the internet is true. 
2. People might not be who they appear to be. 
3. Once something is posted online, it's nearly impossible to "take it back".

Talk to your kids. If your teen confides in you about something inappropriate they've encountered online, talk with them about how to prevent it from happening again.

Sarah Harvard : A source told me that there were two government employees arrested by Fairfax PD on child porn charges and included aspects of dogs sexually assaulting children. What are the names of those government officials and how do I obtain these criminal complaints? Thank you.

James Bacon : Unfortunately we work in the area of sexual deviance and that does open up a door to a lot of things that does include criminal acts involving animals. I cannot answer about govt employees but I would tell you that if you go to Fairfax county general district and circuit websites and can search all the available records thru them.

Anonymous User : Does making a child's social media profile "private" help at all? Also is there a way to see their texts on my device?

James Bacon : If whatever social media account you let them use has a privacy setting they should use it, but you should monitor it as the parent and you should have all passwords. But beyond their social media pages, we find that its the websites and chat rooms the kids go to from their media profiles that are more concerning. For the second part, many of the cell providers have different types of parental security devices, some better than others. Check with your device carrier for whats available. Most have something and something is better than nothing.

Anonymous User : How can I protect my children on social media without being over protective?

Andrea Khoury : Ensure that all privacy settings are enabled on social media profiles. Monitor the pages, history, and usage so ensure your child is staying safe online. You can also set privacy settings on your routers and block sites with adult content.

Laurie : When I was in elementary school decades ago in another state, police officers came to the elementary school and presented an anti-drug program in the library. I would have only been in 1st or 2nd grade. I remember it to this day, and it made a big impression on me, a positive impression. Do police officers ever present prevention programs in our schools? If not, could they?

James Bacon : We have officers who teach these things in all middle and high schools in the county, and our child exploitation squad gives training to schools and community groups. But we do not have the resources to teach all kids in elementary schools. But the center for missing and exploited children (NCMEC) has a lot of resources for parents that can help and here is the link

And with all the training we do with the schools and community groups, we can only help. Its parents who have the first chance to protect their kids, and that's done best by monitoring them and what they do. And always have your childrens passwords

Kara : How can you get text messages sent to two apple devices to monitor your child's text messages? For example 1 iTouch and 1 iPhone. Thank you

Andrea Khoury : Various providers provide platforms to mirror your child's text messages and usage. It is best to check with your provider to see what options are available for you.

Laurie : Your description of this chat mentions apps available from the County to protect children. What is available?

James Bacon : Our county does not have apps to download, but the federal govt has a website that offers a lot of tips for parents and how to protect your kids and computers

also you can go to

and that will also help anyone avoid on-line scams as well

Laurie : I need an overview of what I need to be aware of or watchful of. My oldest is 12. He has not yet reached the minimum age for Facebook, but he does have an email address, and uses a smart phone. He doesn't have any friends that I don't know. But as he gets older, what do I need to be aware of?

Andrea Khoury : Have an open and honest conversation with your child about his online usage. If you can keep an open flow of communication from the beginning about the dangers found in social media, it will help increase dialogue and allow your child to speak with you if something inappropriate should be faced down the road.

James Bacon : Thank you all for the great questions and we answered as many as we could as fast as we could. For parents I would just like to tell you that the internet is a great place, but its like a pool and you cant let your kids go in without you watching them. Always check your kids computer histories regularly and know their passwords. Kids do deserve some privacy (depending on their age) but not on-line. You don't have to read everything but you do need to know the basics of what the kids are doing.