MOST of us remember the days when we were growing up with nostalgia, because those were the days when as children we would meet outside and socialize.
Those were the days when boys would be found outside engaged in all sorts of games, from playing soccer barefoot on dusty grounds to girls jumping rope until the late hours.
But for parents nowadays, they have to cope with children who are always glued on their smart phones playing games and accessing social media platforms, without realizing the dangers that lurk within. The internet can be a dangerous neighborhood for everyone, but children and teens are especially vulnerable.
From cyber predators to social media posts that can come back to haunt them later in life, online hazards can have severe, costly, even tragic, consequences. Children may unwittingly expose their families to internet threats, for example, by accidentally downloading malware that could give cyber criminals access to their parents’ bank account or other sensitive information.
Protecting children on the internet is a matter of awareness—knowing what dangers lurk and how to safeguard against them. Although cyber security software can help protect against some threats, the most important safety measure is open communication with your children.
A 2018 survey of children’s online behavior found that approximately 60 percent of children who use social media have witnessed some form of bullying, and that, for various reasons, most children ignored the behavior altogether. And according to enough.org, as of February 2018, nearly half (47 percent) of all young people had been the victims of cyber bullying.
Social media and online games are today’s virtual playground, and that is where much cyber bullying takes place, and it’s operating 24/7.
Children can be ridiculed in social media exchanges The best foundation for protecting against cyber bullying is to be comfortable talking to your children about what is going on in their lives online and in in real-life (IRL) and how to stand up to bullies.
Cyber security software and specialized apps for monitoring your child’s online and mobile activity can help, but nothing will replace an open dialog.
These days sexual and other predators often stalk children on the internet, taking advantage of their innocence, lack of adult supervision and abusing their trust.
This can culminate in children being lured into dangerous personal encounters IRL. Much, but not all, of what your children post is in public view.
This means that you can also see it—and there’s no harm in reminding them that if mom and dad can see it, so can everyone else. Avoid snooping, but speak frankly to your kids about public boundaries and what they mean for them and their family as a whole.