What Kind of Influence is the Online World Having On Your Child?
The internet has its good side. It can be entertaining and educational, and can open up new worlds for kids, giving them a chance to travel the globe virtually, learn about different cultures, and gain exposure to ideas they may never encounter at home or in their own community.
Sites with a pro-social message can have a positive impact on a child, tween or teens behavior. There are sites/games/apps that teach and even promote antisocial behaviors such as aggression or cyberbullying but there are sites/apps that teach beneficial/positive behaviors as well. The challenge is to differentiate the sites/apps that are potentially harmful from those that are positive or pro-social in nature, that encourage kindness, friendliness, sharing, cooperation, sympathy, empathy and acceptance of others that are different.
As parents we decide which television shows or movies are acceptable to view. How? We check-in and know what they’re watching. Most parents wouldn’t allow their nine year old to see a show that’s exceptionally violent, like Criminal Minds, but do allow them to watch Modern Family. Unfortunately, many parents are unaware of what their kids are doing, seeing, or playing online. Kids are likely to learn and see things online that parents don’t want them to see or learn. The online world is a major influencer in our children’s lives today and can impact a kids’ health, and behavior in negative ways.
Most parents would agree that porn is not something they want their kids to see. According to a recent study, one in three kids are intentionally accessing porn.
What kids see online can be traumatic! How does online porn impact teens? Some kids are first learning about sex online. Porn is different from the X rated Playboy images of yesterday. It’s triple XXX rated and often violent. I had a anxious mom come up to me after an online safety presentation to tell me that her ten year old daughter had witnessed graphic porn online.This mom started asking questions when her daughter began having nightmares and couldn’t sleep at night. This little girl thought that this is what a normal sexual experience was all about.
Cyberbullying is also not something parents want their kids exposed to. This is becoming a growing problem. There are a growing number of apps that kids are using that are anonymous where cyberbullying is taking place. A new one was brought to my attention recently and is called Whisper. There are many others. To counter cyberbullying behavior there are also wonderful anti-cyberbullying campaigns going on such as this one from a school in Canada posted on YouTube using the hashtag #yeswewill. We all have the power to change this kind of behavior, but as parents we need to know that it’s happening in the first place. Parental awareness is key to online safety.
To me one of the scariest things happening online is the potential influence ISIS may be having on teens. Remember that a teen’s brain is not fully developed until they are twenty five years old. They can be swayed by peer pressure and online influence. The influence can be quite insidious as this video shows. Ask.fm is a popular site/app with tweens/teens and is also known for cyberbullying. This site is now being used as a recruiting tool for terrorism. Do your tweens/teens use Ask.fm?
The bottom line is that even though the internet is very positive, it’s also an interactive global tool that has risks. All kinds of content is posted, both good and bad. Parents need to be aware of what is happening in their child, tween or teen’s online world. After all you want to be THE major influence in your child’s life, right?
Important stats about what kids are accessing online:
45% — Visit “disapproved” websites
32% — Intentionally access porn
43% — Access violent content
As an aside, I became an online safety advocate because I noticed the impact the online world was having on my daughter. I did something about it and you can too! Don’t throw up your hands in frustration, don’t look away and hope for the best. Be involved in your child’s online world, just as you are offline. You and your child will be glad you did. My daughter has let me know many times that she’s glad that I was paying attention.