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How to protect your child on and off the Internet

An expert explains what parents and children can do to be safe

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The pandemic has been a social challenge for children with many turning to social media for interactions. This has raised many safety concerns on and off the Internet for parents and children.

Whether it's social media or someone luring in your neighborhood, Dr. Justin Dodson, an assistant director of clinical services at Youth Villages, said it's important to teach your children how to respond if they are unsafe. 

"We always want to make sure we have the foundational safety skills of how to get home and who can you call if you can’t call your mom or dad or a safe person," Dodson said. 

Dodson said also get to know who your children spend time with. 

"Instead of just dropping them off at a friend's house, go inside to meet the friend's family, go inside to meet their peers and other friends," Dodson said. "Know who they are by name and face so when you see people your kid is never meeting a stranger."

He said safety on social media was especially important at the height of quarantine. Dodson advised parents need to know which apps their children are using and monitor who they speak with. 

"Making sure that the location on the apps are disabled so people actually don’t know where they are located," Dodson said. "That’s the missing piece that some parents miss that some of the apps are showing your exact location at all times."

Whether it's in person or social media, Dodson said to teach your children to speak up if they feel unsafe. You can also create a "code word" for you and your child to use to not tip someone off. 

"We have to keep our children safe by teaching them what’s right and what’s wrong for them to be able to respond to someone else when they know something isn’t right," Dodson said.