Feb. 28, 2022

Keeping Kids Safe Online with Dana Miller [Ep. 258]

Now more than ever we need to protect our kids as they have more exposure online than ever before. Children’s Online Safety is a priority that we are taking very seriously.  We’re living in a hyperconnected age and we’ve got the Metaverse...

Now more than ever we need to protect our kids as they have more exposure online than ever before. Children’s Online Safety is a priority that we are taking very seriously. 

We’re living in a hyperconnected age and we’ve got the Metaverse bearing down on us, so online safety for our children is going to soon be on everyone’s radar, whether you like it or not.

Today's guest is Dana Miller, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Commander, with the Wisconsin Department of Justice. She joins me to talk about her career, some more tips on how to interact with your kids, protect them online, and what kinds of issues policymakers should be paying attention to as the internet evolves.

Dana has worked in ICAC since 2014 and manages the Wisconsin ICAC Task Force Program, including oversight of Wisconsin CyberTips from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the ICAC Victim Services Program. Prior to joining the ICAC Task Force, Dana worked for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Criminal Justice program, teaching courses in classroom, online and hybrid formats and managing the online undergraduate Criminal Justice program. Throughout her career, Dana has provided online safety outreach through numerous media outlets, including live presentations and training, television and radio appearances, live and recorded webinars, and streamed social media appearances. Dana is creator and co-creator of multiple safety programs for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, including their online safety interact! e-course and the Protect Kids Online (PKO) podcast.

Online Safety Day 

It’s hard to know where to focus efforts to keep your children safe online, and that’s something that Dana understands. In a post-pandemic and Metaverse world - kids will be more exposed online than ever before, so it’s important to understand both the threats and the vulnerabilities our kids face.

Recently, Dana hosted Online Safety Day to try to bring awareness to the issue.

Non-Profit and Sexual Assault Support Background

Dana started out working for a local non-profit in Wisconsin and part of her role was to work with victims of sexual assualt. Early in her career, she was doing talks about online safety, but its evolved into much more in recent years.

Even though much of the threats remain the same, what we're seeing currently is more of a focus on that recovery of a victim centered approach to things and recognizing that we have to really focus on their needs as we're responding in a law enforcement world. And so that's a really great perspective that is coming into play with our work everyday.

Where We Are Today

In the world of ICANN Internet Crimes Against Children, because we're seeing more people online, we're seeing kids using devices at younger and younger ages. 

We're seeing increased numbers of reports and because of that, we're seeing those reports involving younger and younger children, which is a major concern. So for Wisconsin, the number of cyber tips that come in from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is increasing. In the last number of years, it's increasing over 30% each year. This is a huge concern.

What Kids Are Doing Online

As far as the actual concerns that are reported, they always heavily lie on the sexting side of things. Also, sharing nude images and oversharing; also talking with people you don't know and sharing too much with those people you don't know are the main things that are going on online.

A great recent survey by Thorn about self generated Child Sexual Abuse material - they surveyed kids between nine and 17. One in six respondents had shared a nude image online. So that's a high number, and it's definitely concerning behavior.

Sexploitation Is Growing

What's really concerning about these stats is, of the ones that said they shared, half of them didn't care if they knew who they shared it with. They didn't care if it was a stranger!

Aprroximately 40% of those didn't care if it was an adult. That's really concerning, because that leads more into this realm of sextortion, which is an extreme concern especially over the last few years. Kids participating in this type of online activity are often embarrassed or ashamed of what they have done, so they aren’t quick to seek out help, which allows for even more victimization.

The Correct Response to Exploitation

It’s important to be in a position to recognize red flags in the conduct we see online and the relationships that our kids are engaging in online. Oversight will become a non-negotiable as you work to keep your kids safe from online predators. 

Keep the lines of communication open with your children. The stronger your connection to them is, and the more they feel safe sharing their online activity with you, the more likely you are to be able to guide them appropriately so that you can keep them safe online.


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