Sex crimes in which the Internet is used to groom minors are on the rise. Recent statistics show that children between the ages of 11 and 13 are most at risk, but there have also been cases where victims are as young as 3 years old. For all these reasons, it’s time to make online safety a priority for parents whose children are accessing the Internet. Children and teens need help from adults to understand how to stay safe when surfing online.
Online safety is just as important as offline safety. The Internet is an excellent resource for children: they can play, learn, create, and even keep in touch with friends and family. At the same time, it’s a source of worry and fear for parents, not least because it’s challenging to keep up with the ever-changing digital world and technology, and the Internet can often be confusing and daunting.
First of all, it is good to identify the risks that children and adolescents incur while online and then put in place a whole series of protective measures to make surfing safe.
Online safety: what can you do?
First, your child may be sharing too much personal information, such as passwords, addresses, photos, or someone sharing images of the child that the parent would not want to be made public. Others could further disseminate this information to the point of losing control of who sees and owns it. As a result, the child is at risk of being bullied, teased, and ridiculed, significantly impacting self-esteem and reputation and being approached inappropriately by strangers.
In other cases, however, the child may be looking at age-inappropriate content online. This may happen accidentally, voluntarily, or forcibly if forced by others. Although curiosity about sex and relationships is normal, there is a risk of viewing pornography at an early age about building healthy interpersonal relationships.
Finally, it may be that someone misbehaves toward the child. Online abuse happens on the web, in social networks, in video games, with cell phones, and can have the characteristics of cyberbullying, online grooming, sexual abuse, emotional abuse of sexting. The danger can come from people you know as well as strangers.
Having a clear understanding of the dangerous situations that can arise from the uncontrolled use of the Internet and social networks by children and adolescents, it is up to adults to prevent or address them. Here are some tips to support and encourage parents in the difficult task of taking care of their children online.
Talk to your child
First, talk openly and regularly with your child about what they are doing online and ask them what they are doing at school. This is the best way to protect him because you can spot any problems and encourage him to confide in you if he feels concerned.
It is essential to be sure he understands what can and cannot be shared online. Let’s help him know who can see the information being shared and compare it to the information he would like to share offline. To that end, ask, “Would you give your phone number to a stranger on the street?”
Explain what personal information is, such as name, address, password, email, phone number, and why it is essential. For example, it’s vital to choose usernames that don’t contain personal information.
Let’s talk about the fact that photos convey an idea of one’s personality, so one must be careful not to share pictures that may give the wrong impression of oneself.
Let’s make it clear that not everyone you find online is really how they appear, so you need to be careful about sharing thoughts and feelings with people you only know virtually.
Explain that there are also images on the web that can be upsetting or make people feel strange and uncomfortable, reassuring them that they can always talk about it and receive our help.
In these types of discussions, we must always remain positive and show that we understand that the Internet is a great resource, but, at the same time, the parent must provide the confidence that they are the place to take refuge in case of frightening situations.
Creating a family rulebook is an excellent way to start discussing online safety. With it, your child understands what behavior is appropriate when on the Internet. Set rules for children and practices for adults, and at the end, everyone signs up. It must be ensured that the rules are clear, always up to date, and take into account the child’s growth, wishes, and maturity.
The family rules can describe what sites can be opened and by whom, what time you can go online, and ask permission before downloading apps or spending money online. It’s also good practice to explore the digital world together, looking for apps and sites that are considered trustworthy.
As a parent, there are many actions you can take to keep your children safe online. You can control privacy settings, use family filters and digital tools to manage sites, allowing your child to experience the web safely. Harmless online searches can lead to less-than-harmless results, but child filters can block them. Filters can keep inappropriate content away from children and are easy to install. They are efficient and instrumental software and tools for staying safe when children use smartphones, tablets, and computers.
We explain how to report harmful content and offensive behavior on websites and social networks and even block people. We check the history and ask if the child can also consider content viewed by adults; if not, we delete the account to prevent them from accidentally opening it.
Discuss the Internet while remaining positive
In conclusion, although it is a complex subject to deal with, it is essential to discuss it while remaining optimistic about the Internet and showing your child that you trust the many advantages offered by the digital world. The best way to keep your child safe is not to leave them alone to explore new technology and to provide them with the tools they need to navigate with confidence.