I’ve been amazed when I ask parents if they know about ChatHopper or other video chat sites? By far the majority do not. I go on to explain that ChatHopper (there are many other sites like this) is a chatroom that connects people with random strangers via webcam. What’s at the other end of the webcam most often is more than inappropriate for children, it’s usually downright disgusting and disturbing. Chatrooms are also a place where predators hang out.
So why are parents so unaware of this type of site that their child may be exposed to? Do they just not care? Are they just too busy? Are they afraid to find out what’s out there in the online world? Do they believe that their child would never go to such a site?
A few people say to me that they trust their child online and don’t need to monitor what they do. A few parents tell me that their child would never go to an inappropriate website. Other parents feel that they would be invading their child’s privacy. Some parents believe they can use a net-nanny type product and forget about the internet. (There are 126,000 new websites daily and blockers simply can’t keep up.)
Kids are not miniature adults. They are curious and as teens are yearning for independence. They don’t always abide by parents wishes. They rebel. They are often impulsive, act in the moment, and don’t think about the consequences of their actions. Why? Because the part of the brain that controls these behaviors isn’t fully mature until kids reach the early 20’s. Parents need to be involved, alert and be aware of the dangers in the online world and guide their children by teaching safe, responsible and appropriate computer behavior.
What do parents need to do to keep their kids safe online?
Parents need monitor their children online just as they do offline. Offline, parents want to know where their children are going and who they’re hanging out with. Parents need to know where their children are going in the online world and who they’re hanging out with online too. This is not being overbearing or too protective, it’s being a parent.