Talking to Your Kids About Online Safety Pt.1
In our society, it isn’t surprising that kids as young as 2 years of age use the internet via phones, computers, laptops and tablets. It can be a great place to learn, explore, and connect with family and friends while discovering information worldwide. However, with this access to information comes the risk of online exploitation and the concern for safety among parents and caregivers. Online safety has never been more important than it is today.
Many parents are at a loss and have stated that it’s difficult to stay up to date with all the new technology, apps and devices; so the potential risks and strategies are ever-changing. In this two-part blog, you’ll find helpful tips, things to look out for and what to do if you suspect your child is in danger.
All about those likes!
As kids try to increase their followers or numbers on social media apps, they often accept friend requests and private messages from people they do not know. This opens the door to traffickers who can easily gain personal information and then use this information to exploit their victims. An example of this can be found in the way that kids often use GPS or geo-tagging that documents their whereabouts, or places that they frequent which provides traffickers with information and real-time location updates of where they are and with whom. This is risky behaviour.
As you take the time to teach your children and teens to navigate the internet safely and purposefully, they will be able to remain safe and protect themselves from potentially devastating situations.
Parents need to understand that:
- Kids are always looking for social acceptance to identify who they are and create social bonds.
- To do this, and create a sense of autonomy, they may push parents away to show they are emotionally independent and more adult than they are.
- Kids’ perceptions are GREATLY influenced by friends, social media and what they see on tv; which means they want to be connected as much as possible.
- The need for acceptance and belonging as kids develop makes them vulnerable to those looking to take advantage.
- Teens, in particular, have a sense of invincibility as they mature, which creates blind spots when using the internet or other forms of connection.
- The false idea that private platforms provide anonymity increases the risk that kids will share personal information, whereabouts or images of themselves.
When it comes to images or videos being shared, parents should be familiar with the following terms:
Sextortion: involves individuals who coerce others into sending sexual images or engaging in sexual acts via camera-enabled devices and then blackmail them with the threat of distributing the sexual images/videos if they do not pay money or provide more sexual images/videos.
Sexting: generally defined as creating, sending or sharing nudes and/or videos with peers via the Internet and/or electronic devices.
Live streaming: kids and teens may live stream intimate acts and not understand others can capture a still image or video of them engaged in that activity.
Cyberbullying: A form of extreme bullying via technology.
3 ways you can keep your kids/teens safe
- Make it a priority to become familiar with the social media platforms popular amongst your kids and their friend groups, such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube.
- Make it a priority to become familiar with the apps for live streaming video popular amongst your kids and their friend groups such as Snapchat, Instagram Live, Live.ly, and Facebook Live.
- Ensure you have the necessary privacy settings on both their phones and web versions of social media apps active
When your kids are using these platforms, talk about their encounters on the internet in a fun, conversational manner while highlighting some of these questions:
- What they are doing online?
- Who are they interacting with?
- Do they know all of their “friends” or followers?
- What is their goal with the apps they enjoy?
- What information are they revealing?
- Are they aware they may be sharing more than they realize?
- Do they know what their digital footprint is?
- Do any of their friends have issues or negative experiences online?
- Are they sending videos or pictures online or just messages?
Teach your kids the unhealthy or unwanted behaviours to be aware of online, such as people who may:
- Repeatedly ask for sexual content (messages, pictures, videos, etc.)
- Try to guilt, embarrass, pity, shame, or push them into things.
- Refer to actions they’ve done in the past to make them do things.
- Do not take no for an answer.
- Share their personal information on other platforms.
- Offer gifts or money to get them to do things.
Stay tuned for part two of talking to your kids about online safety where we will discuss how you can educate yourself, the red flags of using the internet, more information on how your kids can stay safe online and how to identify if your kids need help despite them not asking.