Protect our Children: Online Safety

— Written By
en Español / em Português

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.


Inglês é o idioma de controle desta página. Na medida que haja algum conflito entre o texto original em Inglês e a tradução, o Inglês prevalece.

Ao clicar no link de tradução, um serviço gratuito de tradução será ativado para converter a página para o Português. Como em qualquer tradução pela internet, a conversão não é sensivel ao contexto e pode não ocorrer a tradução para o significado orginal. O serviço de Extensão da Carolina do Norte (NC State Extension) não garante a exatidão do texto traduzido. Por favor, observe que algumas funções ou serviços podem não funcionar como esperado após a tradução.


English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

The North Carolina Attorney General has declared a youth mental health crisis due to the increase in depression, anxiety, and suicide in NC youths. In response, he started a series, Protecting the Next Generation of North Carolinians, to address topics including online dangers for youth, safe gun storage, and youth substance use. In my last article, I shared information about safe gun storage, and today, I will share information from the November webinar, Online Crime. As parents and youth educators, we share a common passion for protecting our children.

It is scary to navigate the challenges of today’s technological advancements that provide many benefits and dangers. Parents must understand the dangers and be prepared to defend against these attacks. Predators do not live in the deep dark web. They are on the same social media sites as we are. They are hunting on the sites where their victims are spending time. The internet is here to stay, and we can protect our kids by preparing them for the responsibility that comes with internet freedom. According to the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, between 10-14% of children ages ten to fourteen have experienced sexual solicitation, with 3% making offline contact with the online perpetrator.

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a Cybertipline. Tips are reviewed and then given to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). In 2020, cybertips doubled as more people went online than ever before in the history of the world. Sadly, these numbers are still rising. Unfortunately, social media can be used as a door for sexual predators to enter your “home,” and these bad actors have many approaches they use to gain access and trust. They may pose as modeling agencies. Websites claim to host kids-only chat rooms but may have no regulations defending against sex offenders entering. The promotion on these sites makes participants think they are safe, but they are not. All chats or posted media are saved, shared, and reviewed, even on Snapchat. Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Snapchat officials accounted for 56% of all the cybertips provided to the SBI in NC. 

Sextortion is when a predator has communication with a child who then sends a compromising video, message, or photo. The bad guy then blackmails the child. Both males and females are being sextorted, and it is underreported. Sextortion has contributed to the increase in suicide rates for teens, and law enforcement gets involved after it is too late to help. The Wake County Assistant District Attorney recommends that parents and organizations hold a viewing of the movie “The Hidden Pandemic Sextortion” and discuss it afterward. There are more resources at the ICAC Taskforce.

Parents need to have the current technology version of the “stranger danger” talk. This conversation needs to be direct and honest. Have a family technology contract or agreement and use it as a discussion outline. The Department of Justice has several resources to help you with this conversation, including a sample contract. Some things to cover: how to approve and monitor authorized applications, screen time limits, nighttime device locations, and rules for sharing personal information online. Check out the many internet monitoring apps and see if one will work for your purposes. This video,, was made available to all high and middle schools nationwide.

Also, go over the realities of written communication. Chatting is flat. The tone does not come across, so text messages lack the emotion or inflection that gives meaning to a verbal conversation. The online persona may not be trustworthy, and people may not represent who they are but who they’d like you to believe they are. Chat with known contacts carefully until the person’s identity is confirmed. Accounts can be spoofed, so ask identifying questions or contact them via a trusted method to confirm identity. Nothing on the internet is private. If you wouldn’t put it on the roadside billboard, do not put it on social media. Look for red flags, such as being asked to switch to another mode of communication.

Parents, trust your gut and arm yourself with information. Research first and speak the language using resources provided by organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Internet Crimes Against Children, or the NC Department of Justice. If you haven’t had this conversation with your child/teen, don’t delay.

Information gleaned for this article came from speakers on the second Protecting the Next Generation of North Carolinians webinar: Attorney General Josh Stein, kNot Today President and Co-founder Linda Reich, NCDOJ Special Deputy Attorney General Boz Zellinger, State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Kevin Roughton, and the Wake County Assistant District Attorney, Special Victims Unit, Katheryn Pomeroy.

The Lee County Youth Council also focuses on youth health and well-being with their community passion project this year. To find out how to participate in their efforts or for resources on this topic or others, please contact Pam Kerley, the 4-H Program Assistant for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center. 4-H is a Positive Youth Development Program offering programs that suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, budgets, and schedules. From in-school to after-school, clubs to camps, 4-H programs are available in Lee County, and we welcome children who want to have fun, learn, and grow. In North Carolina, 4-H is brought to you by the NC State Cooperative Extension. N.C. Cooperative Extension’s experts and educators share university knowledge, information, and tools you can use daily to improve your life.

This article was published in the Sanford Herald on February 10, 2024.