Keeping children safe online is a growing challenge.
Have you ever wondered what your kids are doing on their smartphones when you put them to bed? Do they come across 18+ content? Are they addicted to any sort of game that promotes violence or racism? Are they being bullied online?
Just as a parent today cannot safely leave their child in a playground, park or supermarket unguarded, they cannot be sure about their child’s online safety. Adult content is uncensored. Even when a question is asked, and the viewer is told “you must be 18+ to view this content,” often children merely need to click “yes, and access is granted. There are several forms of cyber danger for kids, and ways to prevent them.
Online predators create false teenage profiles in Facebook and other social media platforms. They carefully study the profiles to add similar interests such as music, movies, games before befriending their next victim. Parents often think their kid would never talk to a stranger online, but the last research conducted by an online journalist Cody Persin proved this wrong. Not only did all of the girls surveyed answer an online message from a total stranger; all of them also agreed to meet the stranger in real life. At latest count, there are over 750,000 registered child predators in the U.S. alone.
The term “bully” used to describe that mean boy from your high school who would lock kids in closets. While being bullied was quite painful, a kid could go home or to any teacher and feel safe. Today, bullying doesn’t end at school. It continues in online chat rooms like SnapChat, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. Mean words are used to harass, embarrass and threaten kids because of their color, their ideas, or even their appearance. This has long-term psychological effects on kids, such as depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Amanda Todd was the first to openly speak about her cyberbullying experience. She even made a video describing all the embarrassment, blackmail and cyberbullying she had to suffer. Unfortunately, she is now known all over the world as one of the first victims of cyberbullying who committed suicide. Only one out of 10 children tells a parent about being bullied.
Adult content also has harmful effects on underage children, of which parents should be aware. Pornography shapes children’s sexual beliefs and attitudes. Repeatedly viewing sexually explicit material can lead to permissive attitudes towards sex, cynicism about the need for affection between partners, sex between friends, “one night stands,” and more. Adult content that includes violent attitudes or actions towards women can lead to mimicking the behavior seen in these movies, disrespect towards women, and even fantasies about committing rape. One in nine online searches result in erotic content.
What you can do
Educate. Talk to your child about online dangers. Show them video stories of brave kids like Amanda Todd, to increase their awareness of the potential problems of online content. Join special school clubs where you can educate both children and parents. Such clubs unite kids and allow them to express their fears and share personal stories.
Play the celebrity card. Every generation has its role models, and the current generation is no different. Kids digest everything teenage stars say. Luckily, these stars do talk about cyber dangers. Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber, and Selena Gomez have spoken openly about their own experiences of being cyberbullied. These stories are the best examples of how to overcome and stand up to bullying and sexting for the young generation.
Be a part of your kids’ online lives. “Friend” your kids on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms, to see what they post and with whom are they friends. Just as you need to know your kids real friends, in the same way you need to know their online friends. Some parents use Google safe search, which omits adult content, while others use parental control applications to monitor new contacts, call logs, text messages and real-time GPS location of their kids.