Top 5 dangers kids face online & how to prevent them
Children are among the most active Internet users, and are unfortunately subjected to a number of risks. If you allow your children to spend time online, it’s important to know what threats they face so you may deal with them accordingly. Here are some of the most common dangers kids face onine and steps to take to try to reduce the risks and educate our children to become responsible digital citizens:
1. Inappropriate Content
The Internet is full of “inappropriate content.” It’s very easy for children to find websites containing potentially mind warping and disturbing content. They may try searching for such content, or they may stumble upon it accidentally. Be cautious of YouTube, even in the kid’s version. It is easy to keep clicking though video links which can quite quickly get way off subject as these are driven by “bots” and advertising. There are also thousands of videos that look like popular cartoons (i.e. Pepa Pig) but in fact have been edited and contain disturbing content.
Prevention: You may wish to set up parental control software to block websites you don’t want kids to browse. Another option is to use a child-friendly browser that automatically blocks websites unsuitable for kids. It also helps to keep a close eye on your kids while they’re online, or check their recent search histories so you have an idea of what sites they’re visiting. Placing your computer in a room the whole family uses regularly is also a good idea and always check the age ratings of apps and video games. As an alternative to YouTube, “Jellies” is an app in which video content is fully reviewed by human beings and not “bots”.
2. Chat Room “Friends”
The Internet is a perfect forum to meet new people, but some with malicious intent can use it to “befriend” your child. Most prey on a teen’s desire to be liked, their desire for romance, or their sexual curiosity. These can then turn into offline relationships or, in extreme cases, opportunities for kidnapping or abduction. Be aware that younger children can be targeted through what appear to be harmless apps, such as “RoadBlox”.
Prevention: Education is key here. Emphasize the dangers to your children. Go over the warning signs, and stress that they can always come to you if concerned. Encourage your kids to interact online only with those they know, such as friends and relatives. We always recommend changing the default privacy settings of Social media sites to make profiles private so that no random stranger can view their profile. Also let them know that meeting anyone they met online presents very real, very scary dangers. Be cautious of apps like “Monkey” and “Yellow” – these are effectively teen dating apps!
3. Cyber bullying
Bullying happens on both the playground and in the digital world on social media. Hurtful words are exchanged. Rumors start easily and spread quickly. Profiles and e-mails are hacked. This is arguably one of the most challenging threats to deal with.
Prevention: Though a solution is to prevent your children from creating social media profiles in the first place. Let them know they can create theirs when they’re older (the recommended age is actually 13). If they do already have an account, remind your children that they can always come to you if they’re being bullied, whether online or not. You can also set up parental controls to monitor some social media activity, although the older children are the more IT savvy and may overcome these controls. Also there are so many forms of online chat that it is unlikely that there is no parental control software that can monitor them all.
4. Online Scams
While adults are often thought of as the main targets of online scams, children are very vulnerable to them as well. Common scams include emails claiming you’ve won large sums of money and requesting payments to receive said “winnings,” websites offering something for a low price but never explaining what it is exactly; and essentially anything that’s extremely cheap or free. Children can also be very trigger-happy and may click on links they shouldn’t do.
Prevention: Again, education is the key in preventing online scam issues, so be sure to let your children know what the signs are. Also emphasize that they should never, ever purchase something online without checking with you, and discourage them from clicking on suspect links. The more they know, the better—you don’t want them accidentally infecting the family computer with a virus or otherwise costing you a large chunk of money.
5. Posting personal information
Children do not yet understand social boundaries. They may post personal information online, such as on their social media profile. This might be anything from images of awkward or private personal moments, to their home addresses and contact details. In addition, anything your child puts online is nearly impossible to remove later. But teenagers in particular are not thinking about how a future boss—or, one day, a prospective spouse—might respond to “amusing” images or other personal content that they post to their social media profiles or other websites.
Prevention: If your children are posting in public view, you can also see it and there is no harm reminding them that if you can see it, so can everyone else. Talk to them about public boundaries and change the default settings on social media accounts to make their profiles private. It is also important to explain to them that they may change how they wish to portray themselves online and that the Internet won’t let them!
The bottom line
The Internet can pose dangers to children. However, it can also open doors of wonder for them that previous generations could not even have dreamed of. Help make sure that your children experience the joys of an online world, not its hazards.
Whilst there are tools to control Internet usage, it is important to recognise that perhaps the most effective way to help raise a digitally responsible generation is through open communication and education, both by parents and schools.
If you would like assistance with setting up parental controls, Tekkie Help can certainly help do this. Please check out our website for further information. Working with our partner Blue Phish, we can arrange either one-to-one or group training sessions (with or without your children) to run through warning signs and steps for prevention in greater detail. Please call us on 81138682.