In today’s world, we all interact in the digital space. While we want our children to be proficient with technology and be able to access the vast information and resources available online, we also have to be diligent in protecting our children from the objectionable material and dangers found online.
With social media, online gaming and cell phones, our children are vulnerable to predators, pornography, cyberbullying and more. It is our responsibility as parents to protect our children from that which might harm them. The first step toward this is being aware and staying involved.
Here are a few tips to help you be proactive in preventing your child from becoming a victim of online abuse:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. I can’t emphasize this enough. Children need to know what’s out there — they need to know that predators exist and are prevalent in chat rooms posing as teens; private posting online is NEVER private and public posting can’t be fully deleted once it’s online; and the gaming and pornography industries are intricately linked, causing unexpected and inappropriate pop-ups. Ask questions about what your child is seeing online. Discuss online topics often so that your children will feel comfortable telling you when they read or see something that makes them uncomfortable.
- Always keep computers in a common area of the home where the screen can be seen by you at all times. Limit time on devices and offer alternatives. Time online should be considered a privilege.
- Share all social media accounts with your child and change passwords often. Both texting and social media accounts should be monitored for cyberbullying. If bullying happens, make sure to document all correspondence, calmly tell the person to stop, inform the parents, and block communication. Also, be sure to have open conversations with your children about the impact of things said online so that they develop an understanding that there is a real person behind an online profile.
- Set your gaming console profile to private and disable the chat and instant message option. Remind your children to never give out personal information. Be sure to check a game’s content and rating on ESRB before your children play.
- There are third party applications that can block inappropriate sites and help parents monitor what their child is doing online.
Below are some additional resources to help with online safety:
Internet Safety, National Crime Prevention Council
Privacy and Internet Safety, Common Sense Media
Internet Safety Tips for Kids and Teens, National Children’s Advocacy Center