The state of online safety for children seems to be heading in the wrong direction. Exposure to online risks is increasing for kids today; not decreasing says a leading research group. More kids are being cyberbullied, seeing hate messages, sexual images, meeting up with someone they met online and visiting pro-anorexia sites.
Online Safety for Kids; Are We Doing Enough?
The numbers should be getting better not worse. Children are clearly being put in harms way and we need to pay serious attention to that and make every effort to turn these numbers around. Technology has so many wonderful benefits and is a necessary part of today’s digitally dominated world, but we need to make sure the online world is safe for the most vulnerable in our society, our children.
Parent education needs to be a priority. Awareness and knowledge have always been key to injury prevention in the offline world. Parental awareness of what their children are doing online, how they’re behaving as well as knowledge about the associated online risks is key to prevention of injury in the online world.
How many parents are even aware that there are pro-anorexia sites or hate sites? When was the last time you heard a PSA (public service announcement) about online risks and online safety?
Offline parents do a great job of keeping their kids safe. They check-in to make sure parents are home when their child goes to a friend’s house. They teach their kids not to dive into the shallow end of a pool. They don’t serve ice-cream for breakfast (except on upside down days) and teach their kids about healthy eating. We need to take that same parental vigilance to the online world.
Arming parents with knowledge about online safety risks is an important step so they can pro-actively help prevent their children from being put in harms way. E.g. I heard a PSA on the radio yesterday regarding tanning beds and teens. Tanning beds put teens at risk for melanoma. Many parents will be educating their children about this risk as I’m writing. Just as they do in the offline world, most parents armed with knowledge will take the necessary steps to protect their children online.
Computer, and mobile technology and its rapid explosion has exceeded all of our expectations. Social networking and new apps have exploded beyond our wildest imaginations. Unfortunately, the safety of our children has not kept pace with the vast ever changing online environment and leaves our kids exposed and vulnerable. We need to change these numbers so that they are headed to zero. Ongoing public service announcement campaigns would help improve the safety of our children online as parents become aware of the issues and what they can do to protect their children online.
OK legislators on both sides of the isle; let’s spend some tax dollars on this important and very current public service need that has been neglected for far too long!!