Children’s Safety Online
Anyone who goes online needs to be safe, that means kids as well as adults. Kids and young people now spend up to 7 ½ hours a day online and there are real dangers out there like cyber bullying and inappropriate content, among lots of others.
One of the biggest problems with the online security of kids is that we, as parents, often don’t take enough of an active role in what they see and do online.
What our kids do online is something we really need to take more seriously. So rather than using the Internet as a cheap baby sitter or using online safety software such as Net Nanny®, take a proactive role in where they go on the Internet and what they do when they get there. That’s the best way to ensure that they don’t see the things they shouldn’t and they don’t run into any other types of trouble online.
The Dangers They Can Encounter
Communicating with people they don’t know is something kids and young people often have little experience of. Social media sites are places they can meet and talk to friends. These “friends” may not be exactly who they claim to be. So, while it’s great for kids to socialize online, chatting to people they don’t know can make them vulnerable to grooming, bullying and inappropriate information sharing.
We’ve all heard the term ‘grooming’ but do we know what it really means?
Grooming is when a person (male or female of any age) gains the trust of a child by building an emotional connection with them for the purpose of future sexual or other type of exploitation.
- Sharing certain types of personal information can lead to significant problems.
- Sharing information with “friends” on chat lines, forums or other social media can get around set privacy controls.
- Some online games require lots of personal information before the game can be played. The site may then illegally sell or rent this information to third parties.
- Many apps and some social networking websites use GPS or other tracking software to locate their users and may send advertising to them.
Pictures uploaded to websites often have tags that show their locations and this information could lead an unscrupulous person to where your child lives, goes to school, works or hangs out.
Young people can even get into trouble with gambling or running up debts.
- Some gaming sites offer players a chance to purchase extra ‘lives’ or different levels of play.
- Gambling sites have age restrictions to keep young people out but young people are often very resourceful in getting around these restrictions. Once in, they could succumb to the enticement of the prizes and offers of winning ‘big money’.
Either way, they can quickly run up large debts, often without realizing what’s happening.
Can We Keep Them Safe?
- Talk to your kids about the dangers they might face. Make it clear to them why they should guard their safety and how to do that:
- Talk about sharing information and pictures of themselves, particularly “sexting” (sending nude photos in response to requests from boyfriend or other friends).
- So that they know how to find the online information they want or need, help them to evaluate the appropriateness of the search results Google or other search engines bring up.
- Encourage them to tell you where they’ve been online and what they saw as well as asking questions about anything they might have seen that concerns or worries them.
- Together with your kids, develop the rules that will keep them safe. For instance, what personal information they can and cannot disclose on a website, in chat rooms, forums and social media sites.
Discuss cyber bullying, what it is and what to do about it if it happens to them.
The best way to keep your kids safe is to get involved in their online world, being in the same room with them and knowing what they are doing while online and monitoring how well they pay attention to, and abide by, the rules.
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