Real friends don’t pretend to be something they’re not. Real friends don’t make you feel uncomfortable. Real friends don’t ask for sexually explicit pictures.
In our increasingly digital world, children are spending more time on laptops and phones than ever, and young people in the foster care system are no exception. How can CASA volunteers, caregivers and others help ensure these kids stay safe online?
The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University created the R.E.A.L. Friends Don’t campaign to increase awareness and educate young people and their caregivers about online safety. The site has two branches: one for parents and caregivers and one for teens.
The parents and caregivers section focuses on preparing adults to have important conversations with young people about online safety, goes into the many platforms teens are using where they could fall victim to predators, and offers other resources to help adults stay vigilant and protect the young people in their care.
R: Raise the topic of online safety with your kids.
E: Educate yourself on the technology they’re using.
A: Act if something makes you or your child uncomfortable.
L: Learn all you can.
The section for teens is meant to educate and empower young people to protect themselves and their friends. Using youth-friendly language, the site explains the warning signs of online grooming, dives into statistics of what groups are most likely to be targeted, and shares strategies and resources for what teens can do to look after themselves and each other.
R: Realize that predators pretend to be your friend.
E: Educate yourself on who predators target for exploitation.
A: Ask yourself before sharing any photo, “Would I want my grandma to see this?”
L: Let someone know if you feel uncomfortable!
The young people CASA serves are at increased risk of falling victim to predators. Help keep them safe from online grooming and exploitation—stay vigilant, check out the R.E.A.L. Friends Don’t website, and share it with adults and young people alike! Dive in at www.realfriendsdont.org.