A single post online can ruin your child’s life
Parents are finding it ever so hard to keep up with their kids as more and more apps are introduced each day. In most cases, those apps are far too motivating and fun that kids won’t give it a second thought before hitting that “send” button on every photo and piece of information they want to share; even if it be too personal.
So why do parents take the decision of buying smart devices for their kids? In most cases, it is to acknowledge their appreciation of hard work at school. Of course, there’s always a bright side to it. Social media today is the primary connection between friends and family, even for children and parents. Parents tend to learn more about their kids’ personalities and thoughts through their posts online. And the bigger benefit is that social media is where a teenager is most likely to get involved with charity campaigns, sport clubs, news, science, and experience the world.
Is your child an easy target?
Statistics relating to children’s usage of social media show worrying results. A recent research by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in Bahrain (National Internet Safety Review that was published in 2016) revealed that 22.7% of surveyed children admitted to adding strangers that they had never met before on their online social accounts. Whilst around 27.7% said that they had experienced uncomfortable online interactions with users of social networks. What is more worrying is that 20.2% said they had not used privacy settings for their social network profiles.
According to the mentioned survey, an alarming number of children and young people revealed sharing personal information with strangers online. This information included their real name and the school they attend with figures rounding up to 12.7% and 11.6%. A lower percentage of 2.7% told strangers when they will be home alone. It sounds like a small number, but the consequences of revealing such sensitive information can be devastating to a child and his/her family. Children also tend to share information with strangers online about their plans for the weekend.
In fact, newer versions of applications automatically reveal the poster’s location. To an online potential predator, this is valuable information and could be an easy target. It is very easy for predators to lure children into believing that they are friends of his/her parents. If these situations happen in real life, they are bound to happen in virtual life too.
So how do you monitor your child without damaging the trust between you?
14 tips to keep your child on the safe shore:
- Install anti-virus and malware protection apps and keep them updated.
- Don’t click on links you are suspicious of. For younger children, parents or guardians will need to check each and every app before their child installs it.
- Use filters on YouTube and web browsing.
- Explain that it is impossible to completely delete anything posted online.
- Ask them to think about a potential employer doing a background check on them and how posting inappropriate photos and comments might affect their reputation and future.
- Highlight that posting locations is strictly not allowed, and you might want to turn-off location settings altogether.
- Explain privacy settings and how they help to protect us from online predators.
- Make sure your child understands that passwords are there to protect them from identity theft and shouldn’t be shared with friends.
- Find and install parental control apps.
- Learn about the threats surrounding gamers and get involved in the game. Think of it this way; fun and quality time with your kid’s.
- Have a strict rule of No strangers on their “friends” list; make sure to explain why.
- Depending on their age, devices should only be used in public areas of the house.
- Limit time of daily device usage, this will span them away from time-consuming and useless online engagement.
- Set a good example through your own behavior.
In return, you can show your children that you trust them and respect their privacy as long as they’re safe. When your children come to understand these ground rules, your anxiousness will ease so much that you can start trusting them instead of constantly worrying about them. Of course, this won’t be a onetime conversation to get them on board. You will need to revisit the issue and ask them if they’ve come across anything suspicious. Talk about what they do online just like you would ask how they’ve been doing in school.
Think of the grounds you will gain from really “friending” your children online instead of limiting that space to be your watchdog window. All the positive friendly engagements you make with them online will feed into a stronger bond between you and them.