In a time when most kids spent all of their leisure time with several screens in front of them, we expect that kids know how to be safe online better than we do. Kids are the ones creating viral trends, after all, and teaching their tech-illiterate grandparents how to restart the computer. But, when we think about it for longer, we realize that the dangers of the internet still come from people. Regardless of how internet-savvy our kids are, they can still be naive when it comes to people, perhaps even more so than previous generations. Interestingly, millennials are still the most likely to be the victims of cyber crime, and Gen Z is likely to follow a similar trend if current practices continue. Specifically, child abuse is one of the fastest growing internet crimes, and many parents’ first reaction to that statistic is to pull their kid offline.
However, there has to be a balance. With our world being more and more interconnected, experience with computers is an absolute must for many jobs. So, where does that leave the concerned parent?
Gauge Your Kids' Activities
Know exactly what your kid is doing online, either by asking them or using more intrusive methods if necessary. Do they switch suddenly out of a tab when you enter the room? That’s a sign that you should be concerned. Check their browser history; if that’s always cleared, then you might have cause to worry. Your kid will probably balk at this “invasion of privacy”, but if you can’t trust them, then they’re really is no alternative.
Do they watch frequent videos on YouTube, or are they writing short stories? Do they spend hours on social media, or do they read gaming forums? Knowing exactly what your kid is doing online gives you an idea of what sort of things you should be wary of. Blocking certain websites isn’t going to be helpful if they only use Facebook.
Discuss the Risks
Sit your child down and talk about what is and is not acceptable behavior online. It’s not going to necessarily be a “fun” conversation for either of you, but it needs to happen. While your kid might not want to take it seriously and will insist that they know what to do, it’s still a good idea to confirm everything verbally. After all, there’s no risk to saying what your kid already knows!
Do they know to never ever give their password to someone online? Do they know to never reveal their physical location? Do they know how to deal with cyberbullying? These are the sort of questions that you’ll want to follow up on. While it might seem obvious to you, remember that your kids grew up with the Internet. They might not see the danger it poses; they see a community of their friends and others with similar interests. Even if that’s all the Internet had to offer, online harassment is a big enough threat itself. Educate yourself on the terminology and the stats surrounding cyberbullying. It’s up to you to bring the real threats to light.
Take Appropriate Precautions
First, there are parental controls that you can enact on YouTube and other programs. Be sure to set them up on every browser, or your kids will skirt around that no problem. If you’re not even sure what a browser is, you might want to consult someone a little more computer savvy than you to set this up, depending on how technologically literate you kid is.
However, if you’re more worried about your child’s interactions online rather than their viewing history, be aware of the signs of cyber bullying. When kids have constant access to communication, the risk of your kid being a victim or a perpetrator goes up drastically.
Because your child could be the perpetrator, don’t just protect your own family. Protect others from your kids if necessary. Monitor their computer use to make sure that they’re treating others fairly as well. While you might think your kid is not the type, the anonymity of the Internet can motivate otherwise well-meaning kids to act out.
Computer skills have become necessary, not only for the job market, but to fully integrate into the social sphere. You shouldn’t completely deprive your kids of the wonders and peculiarities of the Internet, but you should approach it cautiously.
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