The internet can be a scary place for us all- but as a concerned parent, we bet it’s the online safety of your little ones that is top of your mind. From simple childhood silliness that can come back to haunt them in their adult future, to the rising threats of cybercrime, keeping your child safe online can be an intimidating task. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to keep them safe and well online- and here’s some tips to help as we examine the challenges you face.
Sadly, one of the most important challenges of children’s safety online is simply a toxic reinvention of an old childhood classic – the schoolyard bully. While bullying in any capacity has never been ok, when the bullies take to your child’s digital spaces, it becomes inescapable. And sadly, many children are simply accepting it as part of their lives, which means caregivers may not be aware it is happening until it is too late. From hazing in online gaming to school peers attacking them online, cyberbullying is a humiliating ordeal.
One of the best ways to curb cyberbullying’s impact on your child is to maintain a open, safe and trustworthy relationship. This way, the child can feel safe to approach adults with any issues.
Deviants have turned to the internet to help them groom and trap their prey- and the last thing you want is for that to be your child. They’re hoping to leverage childhood naivety and lack of adult supervision to abuse their trust. The news has been full of children lured into dangerous online and in-person encounters by predators masquerading as their peers and trusted people.
Again, openly discussing these issues with your child, and allowing them a non-judgmental place to turn, is the best thing you can do to keep them safe.
Even adults have bought into the social media overshare trend, so there’s little surprise that naive children can be very guilty of this. Their sense of social boundaries is vastly under-developed, so their risk of posting personally identifiable information online is very high. From innocently sharing things like vacation plans and ‘funny’ pictures of themselves a future employer would take offense to, to being coerced into sending nudes and home addresses, is a rising issue.
Remind them of how open much of this information is- if you can see it, so can others. While snooping on their devices breaks familial trust and makes them less likely to turn to you if there’s a problem, make ‘security family time’, where you sit down and go through aspects like their security settings with them, part of your regular talks.
Scams and Phishing
Many modern phishing attempts are so sophisticated adults regularly fall for them- so imagine how vulnerable children are. This is most common in the gaming environment, where their impulsivity and lack of understanding of the adult world can lead them to try to find ‘hacks’ and shortcuts to in-game achievements, but it happens across the internet.
Firstly, of course, they should never have unlimited access to your bank accounts and credit cards. Even if you allow them a ‘gaming allowance’ to spend as they choose, make sure they aren’t saving these details long-term or being foolish with their own cash. Chat to them about the risks of malware, and how they can’t trust everything they see online. You can consider enacting parental controls appropriately, too, although blanket bans can often be circumnavigated by tech-savvy youngsters and don’t really teach them how to stay safe online.
The internet is part of the modern child’s life, which means the challenges of keeping your child safe online are here to stay. With education and vigilance, however, you can help to keep it a safer space for them.