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Back to school: Tips for keeping your kids safe online

Parents encouraged to talk with their kids
Posted at 6:09 AM, Jul 31, 2017

DENVER -- Some schools around the Denver metro are starting school in a week, and school safety experts are encouraging parents to talk to their children about online safety.

Social media sites like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter can be concerning to some parents. Not knowing who's communicating with your child over these sites is a fear for Melissa Maestas. 

"Child predators," Maestas said. "People trying to lure them to do things that we don't, obviously, approve of."

Denver7 spoke with her as she was with her family at a local park. Maestas said she has three children, with her oldest starting high school this year. With that, comes more responsibility. 

"We have to have the password, we have to able to get in and out, know who all his friends are on social media," Maestas said.

Margaret Ochoa, a Prevention Specialist with the Colorado School Safety Resource Center, said the biggest mistakes kids are making is not disabling their locations when they're posting to social media. 

"Which can set them up with problems with strangers, they often friend people or follow people that they don't know in real person," Ochoa said. 

The digital world is always changing. New trends on social media and new features on apps are evolving. 

Snapchat now lets your followers see where you're located, unless you go into the app and switch it to "ghost" mode. That can turn off your location.

Ochoa is encouraging parents to sit down with their children and talk to them about being safe online. 

"Before they start school, for them to understand good 'netiquette,' they need to teach them how to be good digital citizens, teach them what cyber bullying is because that is something schools have to keep track of," said Ochoa. 

SEXTING BILL

A new bill dealing with juvenile sexting will take effect during the school year starting January 1. 

Right now, teens who are exchanging sexually explicit images can be charged as a felon because it's considered child pornography. Even among friends. 

Depending on the circumstances, the new bill would make consensual sexting between juveniles a civil fraction. 

"There's been a carve out, and the law attempts to separate malicious distribution of explicit images from consensual images," Ochoa said. 

For more resources on online safety: Cyber bullyingCommonsense Media and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.