Cyber Parental Awareness
Your ability to keep your child safer online comes down to awareness. There are many threats online, but some are important to be aware of, while others are far less likely to happen. And we’ll focus here on the most common threats children face, but always remember that each family member with a mobile phone or a laptop is vulnerable to cyber threats, kids and adults alike. I know you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t worried to some extent about what your child may face online one day, and good for your because being up-to-date and aware is always better.
Cyberbullying – We’ll stop it together!Statistically speaking, the most significant cyber source of pain for most kids nowadays is caused by cyberbullying, yet, this is also the easiest one to notice as parents if you care enough. Even if your child never experiences cyberbullying done to them, in most cases, they will be exposed to cyberbullying done to someone in their social circle at some point. And as parents, we should all try our best to stop it once we see it done to someone because what may seem like harmless bullying can be very harmful and, in extreme cases, even lead to suicide. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to pay attention. Some apps can even monitor it and alert you in real-time when your child is exposed to cyberbullying done to them or someone they know.
Screen AddictionThis is something that adults suffer from as well. Still, as a parent, it’s essential to understand that screens can be addictive, much like sugar. Unlike adults, your child’s body and mind are still developing, and too much time in front of the screen can harm the natural and healthy development of the body, mind, and brain. And as a parent, you are responsible for limiting your child’s sugar consumption to keep them healthy, you should also monitor and limit your child’s screen time if you think it’s too much. The good news is that it’s super simple for a parent to automatically limit the amount of time spent on apps and in front of screens with free apps and simple parental control settings. Just remember that besides monitoring how long they are in front of the screens and making sure they sit right in front of them, it’s best to also know how they spend that time and be aware of which websites and apps they use because you may want to restrict access to some of them.
Social Media DepressionAs much as social networks can be entertaining, they can also cause depression. And this statement is backed by research and actual data. In most cases, it’s a total waste of time. Still, my wife, for example, enjoys scrolling occasionally on her favorite social network. And I remember plenty of good times of doing so myself, and I’ll admit that it even helped me uplift myself from a bad mood a few times in the past. So the good news is that it’s not as harmful in the long term as some of the other dangers out there. Still, it’s something to be aware of because, as parents, we need to pay attention to how it affects our children’s emotions and make sure they use it without suffering. I don’t want to go deep into the science and explore why it causes depression among some children because doing so requires writing and an entire guide dedicated to it, so for now, just be aware that it does.
Adult Content AddictionMany parents think they can prevent adult content from reaching their children, but this thought is very naive. Even though you can easily block 99% of it if you know how to do it, you can’t really block it hermetically from your child because one day, one of their friends will expose it to them, or it will pop as an ad on a none protected device, or they will hear about it and actively search for it. Let’s admit it, if a teenage boy wants to see some pictures of boobs, he will find them, and it’s almost impossible to prevent it from happening. Even if you shot down the entire internet, they would find a printed PlayBoy at some point (nothing new here, just talking about history). The best solution for protecting your child from such content is education and talking with them about it the way you see most fit for your family (because every family has its own norms regarding this subject). Just remember, this is no joke because overconsuming adult content of the wrong type can damage your child’s psyche, emotions, and romantic life in the future. And there are many more kinds of harm it can cause! So make sure you do your best to limit their access to such content in the formative years of their lives. Because after they reach 18+, there won’t be much you can do about it, but at least by that time, they will be able to make informed and hopefully wiser decisions. The good news is that it’s easy and free to block adult sites, and some apps automatically find and block new adult sites that pop up around the way every day for you.
Child Predators and GroomersThis is a bit less common but it’s probably the worst danger out there facing children in cyberspace. Because falling into the physical hands of a child predator is deeply traumatizing for life. Rarely, it can even lead to kidnapping, so it’s not a joke. We as parents must face this reality and do our best to protect children from it and ensure such people are treated in prison. Even if you are not a CIA or FBI agent, it’s an ethical duty to report to the authorities, especially when you are sure this is the case. The most dangerous predators are the grooms. They usually, slowly and over months and years, pretend to be just another friendly kid chatting online with your child. And they slowly push children to meet with them. They are everywhere: on online games chats, social media, and basically, anywhere they can communicate with kids without parents noticing, and it’s our duty as parents to notice. And again, as always, it comes back to education and communication. This is the ultimate solution (better than any app or tech) because if you don’t give your child the knowledge and tools for dealing with things like “Online Stranger Danger,” they might fall for the predator’s bait. And communication is super important because they need to feel confident about telling you if something like this ever happens. Monitoring your child’s online chats is possible. It can give you a lot of peace of mind. Still, educating them on how to deal with the online strangers they chat with is even more impactful in the long run.
Personal Data LeaksIf you don’t know a by now, there is no absolute privacy online, and you should explain it to your child and what it means even when most other parents think it’s not a big deal. Based on a recent survey, only 10% of kids, when asked about this topic, show concern and know the importance of keeping private information private and not sharing it online. It’s crucial to understand that personal information your child may share online today can have a long-term effect that can badly influence their life in the future. For example, it can lead to identity theft, and in some countries, to political arrest, and worst. And in the scope of potential data leads, there is no need to expand here on giving your child access to your credit card without a limit. Remember that many scammers are out there and that money that is ‘accidentally’ withdrawn from your account may not be retrieved. The best solution here again is education, and that’s why it’s essential to explain to your child what private information is and what information should never be shared online in public or with strangers. While at it, talk about how everything they post online is always available to everyone and can be used against them. The good news is that they will be safe once they understand how to protect their privacy online and why to do so. And all it takes is some free education delivered by communication and a bit of awareness.
Scams, Malware, viruses, etc.This is an entire category of risks that is well-understood by most parents, so I’ll touch on it briefly and broadly. Most families in the world still don’t acknowledge that all it takes is about 3 clicks on the wrong website to install malicious code on any device, which may open the door to hackers that can harm your family. My point is that even adults fall victim to online scams and install viruses on their devices by mistake every day. So naturally, for “bad actors,” it’s even easier to fool unsuspecting kids that are still uneducated about viruses and other similar online dangers. So if you share the same computer with your child, you must remember that they can compromise your cyber safety without meaning to do so. The good news is that you can use antivirus and educate your kids to surf safely and never install things they download before your approval.
Anything Else? Yes!!!
And just like none of those existed 30 years ago, I’m sure we are expected to see many more in the future, so stay up to date and keep educating yourself and your children about online safety.