When we were younger, our parents cautioned us about strangers approaching us on the road or in a park, nowadays we have to educate our children about strangers who they may come into contact with online, whilst in the comfort of our own homes!
Top 5 Tips Parents Need Their Kids to Know
Everything may not be as it appears. Predators can create fake profiles giving the illusion that they are kids of similar age and same gender, when in fact they are older adults, perhaps of the opposite gender, who may be targeting young children.
- Key Point #1: Only allow communication with people you actually know and trust. Don’t allow people to follow you or chat to you if you don’t recognize and know them from the off-line world.
Privacy rules…Be careful about what personal information you share. When setting up a personal profile or email, children should be aware that it is best not to use their first and last name, nor an identifying photo of themselves. If possible, it is best to use a family email address. If anyone online ever asks for personal information, they should never share this information and should tell a parent right away, knowing that they will not get in trouble, even if they have already revealed some personal information.
- Key Point #2: The internet is a public world and not the place to share private and personal information.
Boundaries can become very blurred online. It’s easier to bully someone from behind a screen than in person. It’s also easier to get other people to join in and “like” or “heart” nasty comments when it’s online. Online, it’s more comfortable to ask youth to engage in sexting, share personal photos of various sexual body parts or ask them personal questions such as questions about their stage of puberty or sexual experience. Sometimes people may even make online threats if youth refuse to sext, send them sexual photographs or divulge personal information. Threats are illegal and all children and youth need to know that. For teens who may be sexting with each other, they also need to know that exploitation of these photographs can be a criminal crime.
- Key Point #3: Trust your instincts. If you are being asked to share personal information or photographs, this is called luring and it is illegal. If your boyfriend/girlfriend is asking for a sexual selfie, this may not remain private and may lead to a criminal crime.
Your digital footprint: What happens online stays online. Children and youth need to realize that once they release a comment, a photo, a video etc. it can go viral and become impossible to bring back. As a teenager, it may seem funny to post drunken photographs but for a future employer searching their name online, these pictures may result in a lost job opportunity. Cyber-Bullying can’t be reversed.
- Key Point #4: When you post information or pictures, ask yourself if you would be comfortable sharing these posts with your grandparents. Your online posts create a portfolio of the future you.
Online freedom is a privilege. With trust and responsibility comes freedom. As parents, we need to monitor our children’s internet and technology use. Devices need to be kept out of the bedrooms, especially at night time. We need to do periodic checks that our children are texting responsibly and accessing appropriate websites and apps. There is a lot of inappropriate content for children and youth on YouTube, Websites, Netflix etc. often containing violent or sexually explicit material which is too graphic for a developing child or adolescent brain.
- Key Point #5: Access to traumatizing images is more accessible than ever before. We need to monitor and have limits in place, including the suspension of devices, if there is a breach of trust of our family’s technology rules.