Are Online Risks Tilting the Scales?
Weight of Online Risks is Getting Heavier…
Would you ever take your child into the heart of a major city and leave them unattended? Of course not! When kids go online via any computer device they are entering a borderless, unregulated world where they can engage with anyone across the globe. They are exposed to all kinds of content, good and bad. There is no doubt that today’s digital world has made parenting more challenging, but parents need to be engaged in their children’s online world just as they are their offline world.
The Internet is Awesome!
The internet is invaluable. It’s a great way to get information and connect with friends and family. It’s a wonderful source of entertainment. But there are many risks and these risks seem to weigh heavier every day. Online criminal activity is growing and according to Interpol, the International Police Organization, it’s a “fast growing area of crime”. Criminals are taking advantage of “the speed, anonymity and convenience of the Internet”. It’s our job as parents to make every effort to teach our kids to navigate the online world safely and responsibly. Did you know that ISIS is recruiting teens via social media? This is yet another new online risk that is adding to the challenge of parenting online.
A Personal Story That I Encountered Regarding Online Crime-
Did you know that according to a recent Google study that 45% of people are lured in by phishing scams? I was almost one of them. I received a nefarious phishing email this weekend. A former neighbor, who had received a blood transfusion with the birth of her daughter, developed life threatening hepatitis. She was at death’s door when she received a liver transplant. I am happy to say that she is doing beautifully now. The email I received took advantage of that as you can see. Being so excited about her miracle, I almost opened it. Thank heavens, my internet safety sense kicked in and I paused to look the email over before clicking the link. I noticed quickly that even though the email appeared to be from my former neighbor, it was not. We are all vulnerable to online exploitation. Our children are more vulnerable because of their youthful naivety and tendency towards impulsivity.
Kids need our help to learn safe and appropriate behavior online and avoid online risks. Do you know what they are? Do your kids?
The Online World is Exploding…
The online world is vast, with over a billion websites and over three million apps. Kids are exposed to everything and anything that’s within the scope of your imagination. Porn is everywhere, Instagram has a drug problem, sexting images are sent via Snapchat, there are hook up apps/sites such as Downapp.com that kids can access via Facebook, games that encourage bimboism (is that a word?) like Missbimbo.com, addicting games like the World of Warcraft, video chatrooms that engage with strangers like Omegle and on and on.
Allowing children, tweens and teens to go online without going over expectations of behavior and online safety rules is like giving a sixteen year old the keys to the car without any driving lessons… Crazy!
What Parents Can Do to Begin Getting Involved in Their Children’s Online World:
Learn and Educate:
Learn about the online risks and then talk to your kids about them as soon as they go online. What you say to your 5 year old, will be different from what you say to your 15 year old. Teach your child to stop and think before clicking, whether it’s opening a link, sending a message or posting an image.
Unknown Person Risk:
One of the first things we teach kids offline is about stranger-danger. This risk needs to be emphasized online as well. Kids are friending people online that they may not know in the real world. And they are meeting up with those strangers. According to a recent study, an alarming 30 percent of teens are meeting up with ‘friends’ they met online. Teach your child never to meet up with someone they have only met online. Sounds like common sense right? It’s a big mistake to assume kids have common sense! One mom recently said, “I didn’t think my daughter was in danger ‘cause she’s a good girl.” This 10 year old girl was chatting with twenty men on Kik. One of them convinced her to send a nude photo.
Appropriate Online Behavior:
You’ve taught your child to be respectful and courteous offline right? Teach them that you have the same expectations of behavior online too. This will go along way to curb the cyberbullying epidemic that is occurring today. According to a McAffee study, cyberbullying is up 56 percent, this year alone. Very concerning indeed!