Advice for Keeping Your Kids Safe Online
Just like in the real world, it’s important to recognize that as wonderful as the internet can be when it comes to sharing information, learning, and even connecting with the people we care about - it also has a darker side. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for children to stray into the seedier parts of the online world without even realizing what they’re doing.
Today, the task of protecting our children in both the offline and online world is a 24/7 job, but online, that burden seems to grow more complex every day. While a few years ago, the biggest concern for parents was the risk of “stranger danger” or the presence of online predators, research from the Berkman Klein Center has established that that threat has been reduced, and replaced with other risks that both parents, and children need to be well-educated about.
Teaching Children to Protect Their Own Privacy
Privacy is perhaps one of the most significant issues that faces children and adults online today. Thanks to the prevalence of social media, children often assume that they can safely reveal as much personal information as they like - as they believe that they’re simply having conversations with their friends. With that in mind, it’s important to ensure that your children and students know:
- That they should never arrange to get together with anyone they “meet” online.
- That they should never respond to, or open emails from people they don’t know.
- That they should never reveal their name, phone number, address, postal address, school, or any other vital information without parental permission.
Cyberbullying and Child Safety
The popularity of social media has also lead to a rise in other issues for children in the online world today, in the form of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a particularly common and hurtful problem for children today. Although statistics vary, it’s estimated that around 20% of kids generally receive harassing or insulting messages through email, social networks, instant messages, texts, and videos.
While there is a lot of work to be done among online communities, schools, and parental networks and before we can remove the threat of cyberbullying from the world completely, the first thing that parents need to do, is ensure that their children know how to react when they are faced with a hateful message. Rather than allowing them to answer back with their own verbal volleys, tell your child to come to you instead.
Of course, it’s best to make sure that your children feel comfortable coming to you about any concerns they have with the online world. Your youngsters should be aware that if they see anything that makes them uncomfortable, they can come to you for guidance without the worry that you will blame them, over-react, or rescind their internet privileges.
Be a Watchful Protector
Remember that you can blacklist, and whitelist pages on the internet using parental control software or your internet router before allowing your children to browse, but it can be difficult to watch them at all times, particularly if they’re using a smartphone or tablet. Instead, it’s worth making sure that they are educated enough to make the right decisions, with, or without parents or teachers constant supervision.
Rebekah Carter writes for the UK based broadband, internet and TV information website Broadbandgenie.co.uk
For more information on Community Matters programs and services that address cyberbullying, click here.