How To Keep Your Kids Safe On The Internet
This week, an 11-year-old boy drove (yes, drove) across South Carolina to meet a man he had met on Snapchat. This is a reminder to parents, the internet can be a dangerous place if it is not used with caution.
Some common threats include inappropriate content, cyberbullying, scams, internet friends who aren’t who they say they are, and addiction.
Inappropriate content can be stumbled upon or looked for specifically. Many websites are not blocked, which gives kids free reign to learn about and see anything that is out there.
“It’s possible for children to stumble across this type of material when doing a search using one of the web sites that is specifically designed to help people find information on the internet,” like search engines, a report from Child Safety on the Information Highway says.
To avoid this, make sure to set up parental controls, use child-friendly browsers, and simply check up on them. It is recommended that parents and children share an email for easy check in and stay in the loop about what they’re doing and who they’re talking to when they’re surfing the web.
You can make some great friends on social media and the internet, but not everyone is who they say they are. This can lead to extreme danger if your children agree to meet these people in person. Have the important conversation with your children about never sharing personal information away to anyone on the internet. Make sure they understand the importance of being careful with whom they are talking to online. Continue to have conversations about
never making plans to go off alone to meet someone they’ve only interacted with online.
Cyberbulling can be both direct and indirect. People hide behind a false persona and taunt others behind a computer screen. Encourage your children to never engage with bullying online and make sure they know how detrimental bullying can be.
Bullying can be indirect, for example if your account gets hacked and the bully posts things that are untrue, or directly with the bully sending messages or comments you with hurtful comments. On many occasions, experts says, cyberbullying can be more dangerous than traditional bullying. The bully hides behind a fake username and, if the posts go viral, can gather mass amounts of support, making the bullied child feel even more embarrassed, depressed and isolated.
It is recommended to stay involved in your child’s online activity, have continued conversations with your children to gage their online experience and have pointed discussions about the importance blocking those who are possible threats. Also, encourage your child to never respond or send insulting messages to anyone. If something makes them feels wrong, let an adult know immediately.
The Center for Parenting Education says kids between 8 and 28 years old spend an average of 44.5 hours a week in front of a screen. 23% have also reported being addicted to video games. Too much screen time is never good, especially for children and their developing brains.
According to the Center, they can become obese, find it harder to go to sleep, and boost their chances of developing depression, anxiety or attention problems.
If you notice your child becomes angry easily, attempts to sneaks for more screen time or lies about how long they’ve been online, those are all red flags to start paying attention and to intervene. It is important to schedule alternative activities and make sure your kids know the importance of stepping away from the screen.
“Post the rules near the family computer and talk often about the rules since most children and
teens now access the internet remotely,” the office said.
Scams can affect not only children, but everyone on the internet. The Federal Trade Commission reported Americans lost more than $143 million in online romance scams last year.
Remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do not click on strange links or believe oddly worded emails asking for money.
“Common scams targeting kids include claims that they’ve won money and requests for payments to receive awards,” Norton LifeLock says.
The best advice is to educate yourself and your children on which websites are safe and what kinds of things to avoid. It is recommended to have a direct conversation with your children about never clicking on links that are not sent from reliable sources. Contact can come in the forms of a text, email, social media platform direct message, etc.
Be safe out there in the world of the Internet.