How to Stay Safe in the Electronic Age
There are several ways in which electronic communications such as e-mail and cell phones can expose you to danger. As you open yourself up to people you do not know, you make yourself vulnerable to harm, both physically and psychologically. As a family medicine physician, I try to emphasize the importance of personal safety for each family member. Listed below are strategies to help protect you and your children.
First and foremost, know your children.
- Is your child someone who would easily be lured away by a stranger? How savvy are your children about interpersonal relationships among their peers or adults?
- Learn what your children's environments are like so you can help them anticipate problems.
- Your neighbors can help keep an eye out for your kids when you cannot.
- Remind them not get in a car with a stranger. Create a family password or "secret word" with your children that must be used if someone other than you plans to pick up them up from school or an activity.
- Tell them not fall for a sympathetic story and use examples. If a stranger tells them to "help me find my puppy" or "come with me, your mom is in the hospital," tell them to politely say "no" and walk away.
- Use Internet blocking software when you can. Teach your children how to filter and process inappropriate information they may come across on the Web.
- Instruct them to never communicate on the Internet, cell phones or through text messages with people that they do not know.
- Set guidelines for using the Internet.
- Remember that it is never OK to hit or be hit by anyone.
- Report abuse to the police and tell your doctor. Get help any way you can.
- Teach children that no matter what an abuser may say, they must have the courage to tell someone if they are being hurt or inappropriately touched. It is the only way it will stop.
- Abuse is never acceptable. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
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