The internet has arguably become more important and ubiquitous in our lives than any other technological creation. But this “miracle of modern technology,” says Misha Safranski, has like so many other human inventions, its pros and cons:
Our kids are exposed to culture and concepts outside of their communities and country. They learn things and see others’ real lives in action in ways we never even dreamed of when we were younger. With global exposure, however, comes the opportunity for those with less than honest intentions to prey on the most vulnerable.
With kids receiving their first internet-enabled device — smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, Playstation, etc. — at younger and younger ages, Safranski warns in “Internet Safety Tips for Kids — Guide for Parents” of four specific threats they may very well encounter. The first one — online predators — “strikes the most fear in parents’ hearts”:
The thought of a stranger luring our innocent kids right out of their homes and into a situation where sexual abuse is the most common result sends chills up our spines. The fact is, however, that it happens, and awareness is the best way to keep your child safe from those with ill intentions.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s facts and statistics on “Raising Awareness About Sexual Abuse”:
- 13% of youths with internet access have been victims of unwanted sexual advances.
- 1 in 25 kids has been solicited for offline contact.
- 47% of internet sex crimes involve offerings of gifts or money during the “grooming” phase (the period of time during which the predator establishes an emotional connection with the child, preying on their curiosity and naivete).
The majority of online encounters with sexual predators – 76% – begin in online chat rooms. The contact can initiate anywhere, however – via social media, email, text message, and more, depending upon how the predator obtains the child’s information.
Cyberbullying and online harassment threaten children’s self-esteem and physical well-being, having been linked to more-than-a-few well-publicized teen suicides:
This form of online stalking may include:
- Threatening messages via email, text message, or social media websites
- Posing as another child and posting in their stead
- Taking and posting or forwarding suggestive photos
- Spreading rumors via text message or social media
One of the worst mistakes you can make is assuming that your child isn’t being cyberbullied simply because you don’t hear about it at the dinner table. According to internet safety education foundation i-SAFE, fewer than half of cyberbullying victims tell a parent or adult that they’re being harassed.
Information security risks, including identity theft, can compromise the financial assets of an entire family:
Kids are trusting. That means they may not think anything of sharing details like their last name or hometown, on social media sites or through text message. If someone gains their trust, your child may even inadvertently share information which could compromise your credit cards or other financial records. That’s why it’s important that we don’t just monitor what our kids are looking at online but also have a conversation with them about how to use the best internet safety tips.
Finally, everyone knows that it’s not really a matter of if children will view pornography online, rather, it’s a matter of when. I doubt anyone needs to be reminded:
Negative effects of pornography exposure at a young age include:
- Confusion and fear
- Guilt and shame due to natural physiological reactions
- Desensitization to inappropriate and often demeaning content
Safranski proposes some pretty basic internet safety and social media rules that all parents should take a few minutes to review. They are pertinent for users of all ages, not just children and teenagers. And parents should be alert to “sexting” — an activity that the U.S. Department of Justice says more than a quarter (26%) or 1-in-4 of teenagers participate in.
Above all, Safranski implores parents to introduce internet safety lessons to their children early and reinforce them often. And like so many other things true about parenting, it’s not always about what we say — it’s about what we do:
First and foremost, the best way to keep our children safe online is to model appropriate behavior and safe browsing habits. When they know what’s expected, and we’re open and honest about what’s out there and how to avoid it, we can minimize any potential negative experiences our kids may face online.
Read more of this interesting and important article here.
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