Parents of children of all ages have one thing in common: they want to keep their children safe at all times. From the time their children can walk parents are monitoring their every move, to keep them out of the street and away from cars, to learn safety rules on playgrounds and sidewalks and safe practices even when the children are playing with friends. Fing about 5 web risks parents should be aware of.
As they get older, there are some safety nets in place. Movies and television have rating codes for parents so that their children aren’t exposed to material or images that they shouldn’t be, as in PG, PG-13, R-ratings and others. But there’s one place that poses a potential risk to children – and that’s the Internet. Unless a parent can sit by their child’s side whenever the child is online, there are going to be risks parents should be aware of.
Talking to your Children
The best advice experts have for parents is to talk to their children. Make them aware of the risks involved when they’re online and teach them what they can and can’t do when on the web. For example, make your children understand that they should never give out personal information to strangers, including age, address, phone number and other pertinent data. Tell them which websites are off limits and monitor their activity. If they violate your rules, then there has to be consequences – for their own protection.
But you can’t teach your children about every risk the web presents, so we’ll highlight some of the top 5 risks parents should be aware of and keep in mind.
1. Social Media
Many social media sites and apps have age restrictions, and parents should be aware of these. Sites like Facebook, Instagram and TicToc have those restrictions, and you should check your child’s profile to make sure they’re not misrepresenting their age. Monitor their texting activity and check each person they’re corresponding with. Use Nuwber, an online tool that will verify the identity of each name on their email and chat using an email address or phone number, and if they don’t match up, delete that person’s contact information.
It’s a critical step, as research has found that 40% of children in grades 4 through 8 have reported chatting with a stranger, and worse, over half have given out their phone number. Education is your best defense!
2. Online Bullying
Sadly, according to the i-SAFE foundation, half of teens and adolescents have suffered online bullying. That’s not only sad, it’s a very serious problem, because it causes depression, anxiety and even suicides. This is another critical area where you should have a serious discussion with your kids and let them know that they can come to you to report any online bullying. Make sure they know you have their back.
3. Online Sexting
When something is placed on the Internet, it will stay there forever. Kids need to know that, so when someone asks them to post a risky photo of a picture that would embarrass them, they know enough to not do it. If you think it’s isolated, well, think again. 1 in 7 teens participate in sexting. Both sexes are guilty, so it’s not just boys asking girls to post. It’s not only photos either, it’s text messages that can get someone into some serious trouble. Here’s something else to consider: a person’s digital footprint can haunt them forever – and the last thing your kids need is a sexting problem when they’re applying to college or looking for a job .
4. Internet Predators
How do those online predators get to teens? Most online predators acknowledge they’re older, which teenage girls like. According to Common Sense Media, the predators start by looking at social media posts and public chats and find someone they like. Then the grooming starts, with conversations that are designed to build trust. Offline contact is requested, where the predator will ask for risky photos and other information that should never be shared. Your kids should never have conversations with anyone online that they haven’t first met in person. Ever!
5. Risky Apps
Teens use apps to engage in risky online behavior. Houseparty, Tinder, Kik Messenger and Snapchat are where teens go to communicate in ways that can get them into some serious trouble. If you see your child deleting messages or closing an online browser or trying to clear the browser history when you walk into the room, talk to your child. Check their online activity – while some parents feel it’s an invasion of privacy – it’s for the safety of the child and could prevent serious problems from happening. Make sure there are no fake social media accounts on their computer or device. It’s imperative you know what your kids are doing online.
The Internet has opened a world of opportunity for kids. Used properly, it’s a wonderful tool. Just make sure your child is safe when they venture online.