Every year, a large portion of people accessing the internet is getting younger and younger. This can be attributed to faster fiber connection that enable more and more people to get connected. As with technology, internet use has also evolved. We used to go online mostly for emails, research, and some socializing on internet message boards and forums. Now, with the advent of social media platforms and better and faster fiber connection, socializing online has also evolved. Younger netizens today socialize via gaming or viewing and sharing multimedia content online. Unlimited internet gives unlimited access to virtually everything. And unlimited access to everything means unlimited vulnerabilities from online threats.
It is reported that people between the ages of 8 and 28 spend an average of 44.5 hours per week online. That is average, so the actual number may be higher or lower per individual. And since the lockdown last year, online classes have become the norm. High speed internet has become essential in all households. This means that children may spend even more time on the internet.
Raising children in this modern landscape poses a new challenge to parents. While most parents grew up in the early years of the internet, the patterns of use differ between generations. Then, the only danger would be downloading a computer virus. Nowadays, children are more vulnerable to different threats online. Getting a computer virus has become the least of worries. So how can a caring parent protect their children?
Unlimited internet brings unlimited enjoyment and unlimited vulnerabilities. Here are some of the most common and dangerous threats online that you should look out for.
Free games usually have loads of ads and some of them feature images that are not meant for children. An innocent search may also bring back results of cartoon characters in adult situations. Explicit images of violence and horror are also easily passed around.
These are the most common threats found online. A research study showed that 1 in 10 children aged 8 to 11 has seen worrying content on the internet. 56% of children from 11 to 16 years old reported seeing explicit materials online
The most common tactic used by online predators is pretending to be a younger person. The predator then befriends your kid and starts grooming them. This is done by slowly gaining their trust. Then they will convince them that it is okay to talk about sex, manipulate them into sending nude pictures, and everything that follows from here is just terrible- blackmail, exploitation, etc. Online predators usually approach children in chat rooms, social media, and games that allow social interaction
Cyberbullying and trolls
Everyone can be anonymous online. This anonymity unleashes the worst in people. Cyberbullying is a major problem. Children may be verbally abused and humiliated online by bullies hiding their identities. Some cases have become so extreme that the victims are driven to suicide. Related to this are trolls. Trolls, aside from bullying, spread malicious content or challenges that push children to harm themselves. An example of this is the Blue Whale Challenge. It basically lists 50 daily tasks that grow sinister by the day. The last task is suicide. While believed to be a hoax, the concept was said to inspire cases of self-harm among troubled teens.
The internet has been known to be a platform for self-expression. Unfortunately, some people choose to express the worst sides of themselves.
These people connect and form groups, spreading their hateful beliefs. To propagate their views, they target the vulnerable – children. This basically works like a predator grooming a child. But there is less deception and more focus on manipulation. Children and teens are easily influenced.
Sometimes, radicalization happens because random people online keep repeating hateful messages. The young ones pick this up and it eventually becomes part of their worldview. This normalization of extremism is troubling and teenagers are more likely to be susceptible.
How to protect your children‘s time online
Now you have an idea of the bad stuff that your children can get exposed to.
The good news is that you can prevent this from affecting your kids. You and your children are not helpless.
Safety filters via internet safety apps
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. This also applies in our case. The easiest way to protect young children is by installing safety filters.
Numerous companies have developed internet safety apps for kids. Have these on your gadget and you could rest a bit easier.
Do your own research. Maximize your fiber internet.
You should always be familiar with what your children are seeing and doing online. Be aware of anything trending. Most harmful “challenges” spread this way. The sad part is that these could have all been avoided. If you are well-informed about the latest online threats, you could warn your child easily. So, use the faster fiber connection available to your advantage.
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The foundation for protecting your kids is trust. Your children should trust you to be their guide. And you should also trust your children. Establish this trust by communicating openly and regularly. Think of it this way: when something happens online, you should be the first person to whom your child should run for advice. Your child should rely on you for help. They should not avoid you or keep secrets from you.
Open communication about internet usage
To build on this trust, you and your child should have regular conversations about their internet use. Be open about the threats that they may find online.
Make them understand the difference between good and bad content. Establish ground rules on which websites and apps they can access.
Tell them to let you know if someone online says anything that upsets or hurts them. Remember: you are their guide.
When speaking to your child, always use a calm voice. Do not overreact or panic. The last thing you want is for your child to keep secrets from you out of fear. If they have been exposed to bad content, explain why they should not access it again.
Spend time online together
Play online games together, browse websites together, watch videos together.
By doing this, you are not only spending quality time with your child, this also becomes a good teaching moment. You can guide your young one’s online use and learn what their favorite activities are. At the same time, they also learn how to spend their time online responsibly. By being online together, you also get to monitor the content that they are exposed to. With a fast fiber internet connection, your online activities will be a more pleasant experience.
Critical thinking for kids
You could not always be present to monitor your child’s online usage. And there will also come a time when you have to let them be on their own. Prepare for this. When talking with your kids about using the internet, use this as an opportunity to teach critical thinking. Just like the faster fiber connection you have, their minds should be faster then the perpetrators of bad deeds as well. Equipping them with the ability to discern bad content from good will greatly help. This may also help them avoid being trapped and manipulated by predators. The ability to think critically can also help children identify fake news and misinformation. The best defense is knowledge.
Focus on prevention
Safety filters are just a part of prevention, as you can see. To avoid cyberbullying and inappropriate contact, teach you children to set their social media accounts to private. Remind them not to post anything too personal and never engage with strangers. Teach them to block and report people who are upsetting or trolling them. Never add people they do not know in real life. Privacy is a big issue online. The earlier that children learn of its importance, the better.
The power of positivity
Communicating the dangers online can inspire fear which is why you should approach the subject delicately. Let them know that you understand how a fast internet service is beneficial for study and leisure. While warning them about online threats, balance this with reassurance. Make sure that they are aware, not scared. With your guidance and the knowledge you impart, your children should feel confident browsing the internet.
What if my child has become a victim of online activities?
If you followed our tips, the best case scenario is that your children can enjoy a faster fiber connection and an upgraded experience without any worries. But sometimes, things happen out of our control. What if your kid becomes victimized?
Cyberbullying / trolling
For cyberbullying or trolling, the easiest way to deal with it would be to block and report the troll. If the bully is someone your child knows – a classmate, for example, contact the school for help. Sometimes, trolls are vicious and relentless. For cases that are way out of hand, you can contact the cybercrime division of local authorities. It is also important to talk to your child about what had happened. Do not blame the kid. Search online for counseling and therapy. Your child will feel depressed and you should be there for them. Make sure that they come out of this intact.
These groups prey on the insecurities of vulnerable people. Teenagers are still on the journey of discovering themselves. Fraught with feelings of uncertainty and insecurity, they will try to find a group where they can fit in. This is how they become easily influenced. Hopefully, you have a strong parent-child bond. The first thing to do is reassure them that they can share anything with you without judgment. Question their new-found beliefs or opinions in a non-threatening manner. Do not be confrontational. Engage in a small debate and entertain their point of view. Teach them to think critically before believing anything they read or hear online. Remember earlier when we mentioned the importance of teaching your kids how to discern good content from bad? This is where it will pay off.
Sexual abuse / blackmail
This is very difficult to process as everything will be very emotional. The key to handling this is to keep calm as possible. The circumstances of the discovery may vary. Your child may approach you and tell you what happened. Or you may have discovered this on your own. Either way, never blame your child. Let them tell you how it all started. Listen and reassure them that they can tell you everything. Your child needs your support now more than ever. A supportive response from the parents is essential for the child to recover from the abuse. Keep your voice calm, warm, and reassuring. Never doubt their story. Again, make it clear that it is in no way the victim’s fault.
Get your child into counseling and contact the authorities for help.
Nothing beats good parenting
The internet, just as the real world, is a fascinating place filled with both wonders and dangers. Equip your children not just with faster fiber connection but also with the know-how to avoid the dangers and they can safely explore the online world.
Protecting your children from online threats is not that different from protecting them from real-world dangers. Always let them know that you are there to support them. Always be mindful of their activities and of the people around them. Establish and maintain a good relationship built on trust and communication. And if ever they get in trouble, you should always be there for them.
Even the best fiber internet connection can not match the strong connection between parent and child. This is the best protection against real world and online dangers.