Chances are, your child is online for at least a small part of each day. Whether your child is in elementary school or college, at school or at home, today’s child is more exposed to technology than ever before. Between computers, cell phones, tablets, gaming devices, and smartwatches, all of this exposure to technology can put your child at a higher risk of becoming a victim of an internet crime. While online computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, it can also open the door to potential harm.
Some of the critical risks facing children online today include:
- Exposure to inappropriate material. Unsuitable material that is sexual, hateful, or violent is frequently circulated online.
- Physical molestation. According to a recent Crimes Against Children Research Center study, one in 25 youths received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact. Providing personal information and arranging a face-to-face meeting can jeopardize the entire family’s safety.
- Harassment. According to a Pew Research Center study on bullying, one in 3 teens between 12 and 17 have experienced online harassment. Online relationships can become more harassing, demeaning, and aggressive than personal ones.
- Financial and legal consequences. Children can find themselves in situations where they have compromised a parent’s financial information or another person’s rights without knowing it.
Here are some tips on how to help keep your children safe in this hi-tech world:
- Teach your child the responsible use of the web, video games, and apps, and limit her time online.
- Keep the computer and game devices in a common room, not your child’s bedroom.
- Keep the family charging station in a common location or your bedroom, and ensure your children hand over all devices at a specific time each night.
- Use parental control software and safety apps; however, do not rely on this as the only monitoring form.
- Communicate with your child about online dangers and remind her of the information she should never share with anyone online, even if she thinks she is chatting with a friend. Remind her it is all too easy for people to pretend to be someone else behind the veil of an electronic screen.
- Always maintain access to your child’s account and randomly check browser history, external hard drives and flash drives, cloud backup systems, texts, messaging apps, chat rooms in game apps and game devices, and emails.
- Research what computer safeguards are used in your child’s school, public libraries, and close friends’ homes.
- Know your child’s friends and parents. If you see an unfamiliar name or email address in a private message, email, or text to your child, ask your child about it.
Finally, talk with your child about non-internet, everyday items regularly. If you establish solid communication ties with your child, she is more likely to trust you and feel comfortable enough to go to you when there may be a problem or something that doesn’t feel quite right with online interactions.