The internet and other related digital technologies have unlocked new ways for kids to learn, communicate, play, and engage in a variety of skill-enhancing, educational, and cultural activities. Now more than ever, many families are spending a lot of their time at home due to the Covid-19 restrictions, and, more time at home means more screen time.
As a parent, you’d probably want some kind of control over what your kids do online. This is not just because too much screen is not good for their health, but also because the internet has its dark side. The sad reality is that kids across the globe have become victims of cyberbullying, hate speech, sexual exploitation, abuse, recruitment for illegal activities, and other forms of online abuse.
Let’s look at some of the online threats that parents should be aware of in detail.
Cyberbullying is a huge issue among teenagers and comes with profound negative effects. With many kids now on the internet, this form of abuse is likely to surge. Some of the ways in which cyberbullying occurs include:
- Sending threats or harmful messages to the victim
- Posting lies or demeaning photos of the victim on social medial
- Impersonating the victim and posting content or sending messages on their behalf.
More children have been introduced to online chat services, gaming, and instant messaging, but not every child can endure the distressing behaviour witnessed on these sites.
Sexual and other kinds of predators are always lurking on social media and gaming sites that attract kids. These predators are always stalking children and waiting to take advantage of their innocence and lack of parental supervision to abuse their trust.
Phishing involves using emails to lure people into clicking on venomous attachments or links. These can be particularly difficult for children to detect since the emails often appear to be from legitimate sources, for instance, a family member or friend.
What Parents Can do to Protect their Children Online
As we have already seen, the internet comes with both benefits and risks. As an adult, you can reduce these risks and let your child enjoy safe and responsible internet usage. Here are some of the things you can do to ensure your kids remain safe online:
Limit Screen Time for your Kids
As a parent, you might want to avoid a scenario where your children are hopping from one screen to the other throughout the day. Consider limiting and implementing the amount of time per week or day your children can use devices, what programs they can watch, and what kind of activities they can engage in.
Talk to your children about media literacy and how to practice self-regulation. This is also the time to discover what they love doing online, and even suggest new apps and TV shows for them to try out.
Set Rules around Social Media Usage
While social media can help strengthen relationships, it can also distract kids from in-person communication, and potentially cause low self-esteem for teens, and also expose them to cyberbullying. Chatting with a new friend on Instagram is beneficial, but dealing with social media trolls is not good for anyone.
Use a VPN
To ensure your child is fully protected online, it is a good idea to stay private using a VPN. A VPN will encrypt your internet traffic and also scramble your data to make it obscure to online prying eyes. This way, your children will be able to use the internet anonymously and safely.
It is clear that the internet brings with it so many benefits, especially now when even learning has to be done online. But, it also has its dark side! As a parent, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure internet safety for your children and also make sure they are building healthy online habits. Now that you are spending more time with your kids at home due to the current situation, it is good to take this time to teach them about online safety and you’ll be glad you did so.