Cyber Safety for Kids is a complicated topic; however, many parents are not comfortable broaching this topic with their children and so fail to prepare their children to face problems that will inevitably arise from extended internet use.
Some common problems that young people face online include bullying, stumbling onto a pornographic or other highly inappropriate sites, giving personal information to an untrustworthy third party and posting information that can later be used against them when they get older and apply to a college or university, or for a respectable job.
Following is an overview of some of the most common problems that young people face, as well as the helpful advice that will help parents and teachers deal with Cyber Safety for Kids.
Cyber Safety for Kids: Bullying
Bullying is one of the main problems that many teenagers face. The following statistics are from the i-SAFE foundation and clearly show that bullying is not something that is to be ignored:
– More than 50% of teenagers have fallen victim to online bullying at least once, while over half of all young bullying victims have been repeatedly bullied via the internet or cell phone.
– Over 50% of teenagers have engaged in online bullying, which means that some young people who are bullied online are turning around and becoming online bullies themselves.
– 33% of teenagers have been threatened via the internet.
Furthermore, DoSomething.org notes that only 10% of online bullying victims tell their parents about what has happened. Furthermore, the site notes that one of the many effects of bullying is that the victims are up to 9 times more likely to commit suicide than those who have not fallen victim to this common yet very hurtful practice.
Cyber Safety for Kids: Teaching Young People About Online Bullying
There are some important things that every parent should impact to his or her teenager about online bullying. To start with, parents need to make sure their children clearly understand that they are special, unique and valuable no matter what others may say about them. While peers may call your child a loser, fatty, dork or something much worse, a young person who has healthy self-esteem will be less likely to become depressed, violent or suicidal than a person who is wholly dependent on peers for affirmation.
Young people must also be taught that online bullying is wrong and can result in not only hurt feelings but also severe mental health problems and even death. What is more, it is also illegal. A young person who engages in online bullying can have his or her social media accounts suspended. If the bullying involves sexting or actual threats, then the victim can bring criminal charges against the person responsible for this behaviour and these charges can result in a criminal record or even sex offender registration, both of which will hamper a young person’s future opportunities.
Parents should also take practical measures to prevent a child from being a perpetrator or victim of online bullying. To start with, parents should have full access to a child’s Facebook account and other social media accounts that the child uses on a regular basis. This should not be done on the sly; the young people should know that parents are keeping an eye on the account both to protect and supervise them.
Parents can also help young people by cultivating a close relationship with them so that young people will be willing to come to their parents when they need help in dealing with an online bully. Young people should understand that they will not be punished, even if they did something that encouraged the bully to pick on them. Parents should take any report of online bullying very seriously and take appropriate action to ensure that it does not reoccur. In serious instances, this may involve taking a young person to a counsellor or therapist or even pressing charges against the online bully or bullies.
Cyber Safety for Kids: Stalking
Anyone can get online and open a social media account. This includes not only high school bullies but also registered sex offenders and predators. Young people need to be aware of the risks of getting too close to people without having actually met them in person.
To start with, parents need to teach young people not to post everything they say, do or think on Facebook or other social media sites. This information can be used against them, not only by cyberbullies but also by criminals. Young people should limit the amount of personal information they post about themselves online and be especially careful not to post revealing photographs of themselves on their social media accounts.
Young people must also learn the importance of limiting the number of friends they have on Facebook. While some young people may consider it a symbol of self-worth to have a very large number of online friends, having too many friends in fact poses a danger and makes it more likely that a young person will become a victim of online bullying or harassment. Only individuals that a young person knows and trusts in real life should be friended or permitted access to one’s social media account.
It is also important for a young person to learn how to restrict social media settings so that the account is not easily viewable by unknown individuals. If an unknown individual sends a friend request, the young person should understand that he or she is to deny this request and block the person from gaining future access to the account.
A number of authoritative sites suggest that parents should not allow young people to have a computer in their own room until they are of legal age. There are some advantages to this, as having the computer in a home office, living room or other public area makes it easy for parents to make sure that a teenager is using the computer in an appropriate manner and not being harassed or stalked by a cyber bully or criminal. However, parents should not rely on this method alone, as an ever-growing number of teenagers are getting smartphones that can access the internet and social media accounts.
Cyber Safety for Kids: Inappropriate Content
It has been noted that 90% of children and young people have stumbled on an inappropriate site online. Such a site may include nasty comments about or photos of friends at school, invitations to meet questionable friends or even sites featuring pornography.
Parents can help to protect their children from a large number of bad websites on the internet by enabling safe search so that children and young people do not stumble on these sites accidentally. However, it is also important to teach children what to do if they find themselves on a site they should not have gotten on in the first place.
If the site contains inappropriate images of or threats to a young person that your teenager knows, he or she should not hesitate to report this to an adult. Explain to a young person that cyberbullying is not a matter of one person simply making rude comments to or about another person. It is on par with school violence in that it can cause permanent damage to the victim.
If the site is simply an inappropriate site that does not relate to a teenager on a personal level, then the teenager should close and restart the browser. A young person who has questions or is disturbed by something he or she saw on the site should feel free to tell a parent about it without fear of punishment.
Final Summary on Cyber Safety for Kids
While the internet has a lot of good, it also has a lot of bad. Parents need to be aware of this and teach their children how to handle it wisely.
The most important aspect of Cyber Safety for Kids is for parents to develop a strong bond with their children so that their children will not hesitate to tell them about online problems such as bullying, stalking and/or inappropriate content. Parents who are close to their children will also notice if something is amiss in a young person’s behaviour and take the needed steps to deal with it in a timely manner.
Parents should also explain to their children that the internet is not a safe place and so should be used with caution. Young people who understand this and who know that they are being supervised are less likely to become victims of serious online bullying.
In the end, as one parenting website puts it, the goal is for parents to teach their children how to safeguard themselves. While parents should not hesitate to put rules in place to safeguard their children, wise parents will teach a child how to deal with bullying and other internet based problems on their own, thus helping children mature into wise, responsible adults.