The worry of every parent whose child uses the internet is the constant fear that they might be exposed to all the inappropriate content that seems to be all over the internet. The internet, I like to think, is a necessary evil; you can’t completely control its overwhelming effect and influence on your kids and you cannot also cut them off it completely because they need it for school. Therefore, it is important you teach your kids how to effectively use the internet without getting themselves into trouble.
1. Let your kids know they are under no duty to please everyone
Let your kids know that there are people on the internet whose only intention is to exploit them, make sure you bring to their understanding that they are not under a duty to please or cave in to the requests of each and every person they meet on the internet, from the one asking them to send inappropriate photos to the ones asking for their personal information.
2. Teach your kids to be kind to other kids online
Most times, parents are too worried about teaching their kids how not to get bullied both offline and online that they forget to teach their kids not to be the bullies. I believe, as a parent, that it’s time to flip the script and teach our kids not to bully other kids. The hunger for “online savagery” is driving a lot of teens to say and post a whole lot of mean things to their peers online. For some, it’s for the sole purpose of getting followers, likes and retweets. Let them know that in the real world, those likes and followers do not make them any better than the kid they’re bullying.
3. Be sure you protect them from identity theft
Most parents do not bother themselves about their children’s identity being stolen, because they are of the belief that they are too young to be victims of a cyber crime. Therefore, they do not put measures in place to keep their children’s identity safe. Identity thieves these days target unused social security numbers usually owned by teens to perform all kinds of illegal transactions from opening a credit card account to purchasing a car. To prevent this from happening, the first step you have to take as a parent is to instruct your teen on what kind of information to keep private and not disclose on websites (including online stores) and on social media. Investing in an identity protection program would be a good idea and ensure you add your children to the policy.
4. Prevent accidental virus downloading
Teach your children not to click or download the “too good to be true ads” that are all over the web, offering free stuff here and there. Explain to them that clicking or downloading those kind of stuff can infect the computer with a malware thereby rendering it useless.
5. Draw the line on what types of sites your kids can visit can visit
The internet is incredibly useful when it comes to accessing information and can also serve as a source of fun for your kids. Either out of naivety or curiosity, teens tend to check out questionable websites which may in some cases contain adult content. You can make use of parental control and internet filters to see too it your kids do not visit such sites, the easier solution to this is to keep the family computer in a common area. This will slice out the chances of them intentionally viewing adult content.
6. Teach them how to stay away from online child groomers
Child grooming which is a felony in most jurisdictions is when an adult builds an emotional connection between himself and a child for the sole purpose of exploiting him or her sexually. The groomer can be a stranger or someone they already know and the grooming can happen online or in person. Children are computer literate from a very young age and need to be protected while using the internet. Children wherever they maybe should be as safe online as they are offline. Here are a few red alerts you may notice when your child is being groomed:
- When your child becomes unusually secretive about what they are doing online
- Begins to have boyfriends or girlfriends that are way older than they are
- He or she suddenly have new stuff like clothes or gadgets that they can’t explain where they got from
- When they have access to alcohol and narcotics
- When they start going to places which they ordinarily should not have access to by the virtue of their age.
Ways to Prevent Online Child Grooming
- Draw a clear line for your child on who they can and cannot communicate with or get in contact with on social media.
- Be sure to let them know that not everyone they meet on social media is honest
- Have them understand that social media is for connecting with people they already know in the real world.
- Be sure you know the particular social networks your children use and create a profile yourself to understand how it works.
- If at any point in time you have concerns regarding who your child is chatting with and as to what kind of messages they are exchanging, demand to see their device and make sure you explain to him or her that you are doing this to maintain trust between you two.
- Be careful not to push them too hard thereby pushing them to hide their profiles from you.
7. Sexting, “the unsafe safe sex”
You should definitely teach your kids that it is wrong for them to receive or send nude or partially nude photos and videos through the internet. When teens engage in this risky behavior, many things can go wrong. These images are easy to forward on to others. At times, these images can be considered child pornography, which in most jurisdictions is punishable by law.
Literally everything humanly imaginable can be found on the internet, its your responsibility as a parent to see to it that your kids harness the positive side of it.