The Internet is an ocean which fascinates both adults and children. The latter are even more allured by it, as the spirit of adventure and the wish to explore are what drives them at this stage of life. However great this digital world may be, it harbors not only the things and people who can help you as you venture out into this jungle, but also those who want to deceive, trick you into doing something they can benefit from, or harm you in some way just for the sake of it. Given how numerous these are, it is vitally important to teach your kid how to stay safe online.
Here are the basic rules aimed at reducing the risk of being bullied, abused or harmed any other way while surfing the Net. Talk to your child about them and practice what you preach – it is of the utmost importance to be a good example and follow these rules yourself.
- Never post personal photographs. In this day and age virtually everyone is involved in the process of personal photo exchange. However exciting it may seem to brag about your new outfit, posting photos online can be dangerous, as those who are active users of social networks and other websites focused on visual content are easier targets for online predators.
- Never share any personal details. Your real name, surname, address, phone number, and other information should remain private. Even the name and location of your school is no business of other internet users’. The message here is that leaving any hints as to how your kid can be found should be avoided.
- If someone who your child does not know and has met only online is inviting your kid to join him or her in some activity or asks to meet somewhere, make sure your child knows how to say NO. Be aware of such situations by asking your child to tell you about any such cases and monitoring your kid’s activity online.
- Use a nickname instead of your real name. The internet is the realm of anonymity, and those who want to harass or do something similar are not going to disclose anything about them, so why should you? It will only make it easier for online predators to track you down. Even if a person you have met online states his or her name, there is no guarantee it is real.
- If your kid encounters anyone or anything threatening (be it a letter, a video or whatever else), it should be reported to you (the parent) as soon as possible. Teach your child not to respond to such messages and avoid reading and replying to posts involving aggression, harassment, etc.
- Teach your kid to be respectful. No, this is not a typo – if your child avoids quarreling over matters they cannot agree on with someone online, it is best to respect the other person’s opinion and avoid embarrassing talks.
After you have discussed these rules with your kid, you can proceed to delve deeper into online safety and read a thorough safety guide, like this one.
There are signs that can tell you your child may be in trouble. Do not ignore them if you notice any of these:
- Your kid immediately turns the computer off once you have walked into the room. Another way he or she can try to hide what is displayed on the screen is alt+tab’ing to switch it to something less suspicious.
- Calls from strangers.
- Spending long hours online and becoming irritated often. Staying online at night.
- Reluctance to talk to you and avoidance of family activities (especially if he or she used to like them before).
- Suspicious activities (going regularly to places that you do not know, reading literature of special kinds, like those spread by sects and aggressive groups, etc.).
The key advice is to be a parent who your child can truly trust. It is only in this case that you can help protect your kid from the dangers that are commonly found online. Another thing to remember is practicing it all yourself, so next time you will want to engage in a forum war or post your photo in a bikini, think twice.