Our children’s world is a fast moving theatre of information, entertainment, virtual relationships, and out-of-the box concepts that were unheard of just forty years ago. Kids have access to a gigantic sea of information and stimulation that baby boomers and early Gen X-ers never dreamed of nor can stop marveling at.
Vast information and easy access is a very good thing because knowledge is a good thing. Like anything in existence, however, good things have the potential to turn evil when used to cause hurt or harm. The internet and the prevalence of convenient, portable gadgets are a boon to modern civilization; but, their dark side hosts online predators, thieving hackers, and morbidly dangerous information.
A parent must make sure his or her child fully understands why rules regarding internet use must be followed and how specifically online predators can compromise one’s safety.
A Parent’s Job
As kids rely on the net for virtually most things they opt to do and perceive gadgets as implicitly personal and private properties, it becomes highly crucial for parents to establish open lines of communication with their children. It is a parent’s job to do so.
A parent must make sure his or her child fully understands why rules regarding internet use must be followed and how specifically online predators can compromise one’s safety. This is the reason for which it is a parental obligation today to learn much about how the digital world operates, how kids use it, their lingo, and everything else pertaining to digital socialization. Ignorance can be damaging—in a few cases even fatal—as in the unfortunate plight of some cyberbullied children.
Parents should know that phishers, or personal info miners, can steal a teen’s personal online identity with just a first name, last name, and a small part of an address or phone number provided. These predators can use the information to commandeer a child’s social media page for blackmailing or even racking up a huge debt on his credit card, which may be linked to yours. Online sexual predators can gain a child’s trust and susceptibility to manipulation through:
- gradual seduction using gifts, empathetic language, and flattering attention
- easement into online friendships with common interests such as music, online games, and hobbies
These predators often successfully operate on the fact that many parents are not well versed with net usage, perceive their children’s cellphones and computers as untouchables, and sadly lack open lines of communication with their kids.
16% of kids in their study have been approached online by strangers and 42% have been solicited for personal information.
What the Stats Say
Early in 2016, The Norton Global Online Living Report revealed that 16% of kids in their study have been approached online by strangers and 42% have been solicited for personal information. The Pew Research Center stated that one in six teenagers or 31% of online teens have included people as “friends” in their social media accounts even if they have not met these persons at all. More disturbingly, a British study discovered that nearly half of kids in their research, aged 7 to 16, have gone to meet new “friends” face-to-face, and 1 in 4 do their meet-ups alone.
It would be naive to think that talking to your child once or twice about the dangers of sharing personal information to online strangers would seal the deal to their online safety. Children may need more reminders, sympathetic conversation, and attention.
With lack of any real experience, kids rarely believe danger can truly befall them (the “Bad things only happen to others” mindset.). The third year survey of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Cox Communications Inc. shows that majority of teens (about 58%) are unconcerned about the dangers of posting photos and their personal information. A good 47% do not think they will fall victim to detrimental online activities and 49% do not worry how some of their comments, posts, and photos may impact their future career. Many human resource managers do research before hiring candidates.
Parents who talk about online safety habits are rewarded with kids who think thrice about sharing their personal info online. About 48% of kids who have had a lot of parental talk are also less likely to consider meeting a stranger.
Educate Yourselves; Talk to Your Kids
Opening the lines of communication between you and your child regarding internet safety makes a whole world of difference. Parents who talk about online safety habits are rewarded with kids who think thrice about sharing their personal info online. About 48% of kids who have had a lot of parental talk are also less likely to consider meeting a stranger. On the other hand, kids of parents who just have vague ideas of the possible threats may be very nonchalant about revealing account numbers, personal bikini photos, SSS numbers, and the like. In the same vein, these same kids stand to be more reckless regarding face-to-face encounters with people they haven’t personally met.
As a parent, you must be open to sharing your feelings and truly listening to theirs so that you may open that vital door of communication between you and your children. Learn about the digital environment — chat rooms, texting, video sites, social media networks, and the burgeoning online vocabulary and idioms–through them. Learn about what apps can help you police your child’s online activities.
Get actively involved in your child’s world. If you don’t, a stranger will.