Nowadays parents are having “The Talk” earlier than ever. This talk used to be about the birds and the bees, but now it’s focused largely on online safety. It’s up to us as parents to help our children navigate this new online world and prepare them for cyber bullies and online predators.
A Pew Study revealed that 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. Because of these connections, 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis. With all the time spent online, it’s crucial to have a plan in place. Below we give you tips on how to talk to your children about online safety.
Don’t Be Technophobic
It’s important to stay up-to-date in this digital era, you want to be relatable to your child. New technology can be a little daunting, especially if your nine-year-old is way more tech-savvy than you. Start with Youtube videos on topics you are unsure about as they are a great tool for educating and getting you up to speed on technology.
Don’t be afraid to sign yourself up for social media accounts like Instagram or Twitter. Even if you have no intention of posting, it’s worth getting one so you can understand the platform and follow your children and see what they are posting, and what others are commenting on their content.
First things first. Get educated about some of the main topics of online safety.
Cyber bullying is one of the topics that have come to light since the internet exploded, it’s easy for kids to hide behind a screen and be mean to one another. According to a Harford County Examiner study, around half of teens have been the victims of cyberbullying and only 1 in 10 victims notify an adult about it. Being bullied online can lead to low self-esteem, depression and suicidal thoughts if not addressed.
Another topic of concern for most parents is the rise of social media. Some kids put their profiles on public so they get more followers. This allows anyone to be able to contact them and see their content. A study recently confirmed that 70% of groomers used Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. It’s important to make sure your child’s profiles are private and that they know the danger of sharing personal information online.
Finally, as mentioned above, online grooming is an issue that all parents should be educated about. This is when an adult targets children, gains their trust, and exploits them for sexual reasons. The Internet Watch Foundation found that 98% of victims are 13 or younger, and 96% of those victims were girls. Most children who are groomed online believe that these predators are actually their friend or significant other. If the groomer gets far enough with a child, they can convince them to meet up and this is when abduction may occur. Long story short, tell your child to never chat with someone they don’t know online and never agree to meet a stranger or someone who they believe is a friend, but they met online.
Other topics to research include online gaming like Fortnite, forum sites like Reddit, and chat rooms like Omegle.
Establish Family Rules
Being on the internet can eat up a lot of time, and is unhealthy. Make some ground rules around online usage in your home. Some new rules could include:
● The amount of time and the time of day that can be spent online
● Have your child agree to never share personal information online and never agree to meet with a stranger or someone who they believe is a friend, but they met online
● Always respect others online
● Let an adult know if they feel uncomfortable with a website or person online
Have an Open Conversation
Establish your home as a safe space for your child to open up about questions and issues they have. Make sure to let them know if someone makes them feel uncomfortable to immediately let you know and to save the messages. Go through the different topics as listed above and have a genuine, non-judgemental conversation. It doesn’t matter how old your child is, it is never too late to have a conversation about online safety.
For more information on internet safety, click here.