Mommy Minute: Parents warned to be careful with tech gifts amid spike in predatory online behavior

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If you’re giving your children the gift of tech this year, you may want to consider this; online predatory behavior has spiked in 2020. There was a 23 percent increase in this behavior between March and May of this year, with so many kids forced to suddenly learn and communicate through a device.

“That’s a definite factor,” said Titania Jordan, author of the book Parenting in a Tech World. “Even before the pandemic, children were spending upwards of eight hours a day online. Now it’s even more and it’s not getting better anytime soon. And unfortunately the predators, or the tricky people as we like to call them with younger children, know that and are exploiting that.”

Jordan, who is also chief parent officer at Bark Technologies, says parents should be having an open and honest dialogue with kids about online dangers, at a younger age than you might think and more often than you might think.

Jordan suggests if you’re gifting a new device, to make sure to use built-in protections and parental controls. You also might want to consider a tool such as Bark, which will alert you to predators, cyber bullies and mental health issues. She compares the technology to buying a bike helmet to go along with the gift of a bike.

“Bark is not going to give parents full unfettered access to every message and direct message and post,” Jordan said. “Bark is looking for dangers like a smoke alarm and is only going to go off when some of the most terrible, difficult things happen, that arguably you would need to know as a parent so you can protect them in their digital lives, much like you do in their real lives.”

For example, Jordan says, if someone sends your child a message over social media asking if they would ever date an older man or asking if age bothers them, Bark would immediately flag that conversation.

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