GOSHEN COUNTY – With a full week of summer break under their belts, Goshen County youth have had more time to log on various online gaming and social-media sites – a near inevitability that puts them at higher risk for cyber threats, including bullying, predators, and inappropriate content. What’s more, online safety and security review company SafeWise recently ranked Wyoming among the five states with the least supportive laws to protect children from such threats, with a “D” grade.
While the state does have laws in place to address cyber-bullying or online harassment, and schools do discipline students for cyber-bullying, this does not include off-campus offenses. In addition, Wyoming does not have any legal consequences for online harassment, and there are no laws or penalties for sexting – sending or receiving sexually explicit messages, which may or may not include images.
To grade each state, SafeWise looked at laws for both sexting and cyber-bullying and assigned points to states based on the types of laws currently on the books and the consequences for violating those laws, according to the SafeWise website (safewise.com). If a state has a law proposed, partial points were granted. School policies and consequences were also factors. Letter grades were determined based on the total points, with higher points earning higher grades.
Statistically, SafeWise claims nearly 34 percent of kids age 12–17 have been cyber-bullied at some point in their life, and 11.5 percent have bullied someone else online; girls make up the majority (78 percent) of victims of child predators, while the majority (82 percent) of online predators are male. And 98 percent of online predators have never met their child targets in real life; more than 55 percent of tweens (kids age 10–12) have been exposed to violent content on the internet, and nearly 60 percent have come across sexually explicit words or images.
In order to be proactive and protect children from online risks, parents are encouraged to know the risks and keep an eye out for potential hazards; discuss the issues with their child; set boundaries on screen time and check in regularly; enlist others to help look after their child online; and be prepared to respond in the event their child does encounter a threat to his or her safety.
To view the full SafeWise downloadable online safety guide for kids, visit https://www.safewise.com/resources/internet-safety-kids/#kids-online-safety-map.