Just like in real life, there are many dangers lurking in the Internet, which, for the unwary parent, may lead to disaster for your children. In this article, we’re giving you three real dangers you need to watch out for when you let your child use the Worldwide Web.
Cyberbullying can take many forms, the most common of which is receiving hateful and insulting messages. Other forms involve the posting of humiliating photos and videos. This can get really bad though, and it is not uncommon for particularly vulnerable people to receive threats of physical and sexual violence.
When your child, or anyone you love, is being cyberbullied, assess the situation first, and see if you can disengage (say by blocking the person from contacting you or your family further). However, if the bully is engaging in threats of sexual and physical violence, and drops hints of knowing you, your child, or your family personally, then it may be necessary to bring in the proper authorities. You can contact the Cyber Crimes Division of the National Bureau of Investigation to request for help.
2. Access to Pornography
Pornography is prevalent and easily accessible in the internet, and children, especially those who are a little bit older and about to enter puberty, may even be seeking them out. The best way to make sure that your child doesn’t access inappropriate content really is parental guidance. Check out the browsing history of your family’s computer regularly to see the websites being visited by your child. For added security, you can impose a rule that the browsing history of the family computer should not be erased by your kids, and that the only persons allowed to do so are you or your partner. I’d also suggest making a rule that computers can only be used in public spaces in your home, such as in the living room or kitchen.
Internet filtering software can also help, but they are an imperfect solution.
Finally, and this is especially true for parents with kids about to enter puberty, it is important to talk to your kids about sex and sexuality so that their knowledge about these matters do not come from pornography websites.
3. Online Predators
There are a lot of stories in the media about predators prowling chatrooms and other websites, looking for young, impressionable kids to seduce and victimize. It is important for you to teach your children, at the earliest possible time, how to spot these predators and avoid them. The “Stranger Danger” lecture you give your kids should also include a portion on strangers in the internet, and that they shouldn’t meet strangers on the internet in real life. Teach your kids about the importance of privacy, and that it is never a good idea to share personal details, such as your address and telephone numbers, online. Limit your child’s use of social networking sites, and make sure that when they do use them, you are always around to supervise.
MommyPROS, in a very informative article, has listed several software programs to help you manage your child’s safety when they are using the internet. Make sure you take the time to check those out.
How do you protect your child from the dangers of the internet? We’d love to hear your thoughts.