Summer's here, and with children out of school, they're bound to have more free time. Hopefully they'll have plenty of fun swimming and playing outside, but some of that time they'll spend online. While the internet can be a useful tool for learning and communicating with friends, it also poses unseen dangers that are all too accessible. While there's no need for sensational alarmism, we must realize that bad actors are just a click away from children online. If we want to keep our kids safe, it's necessary to recognize and prevent these threats.
Here are some of the most common risks posed online, risks that can quickly assume real-life dimensions:
- Bullying: Cyberbullying is unfortunately a common phenomenon that carries teasing and ostracism into social networks. The net effect of cyberbullying is to make a child feel that nowhere is safe, and that their entire identity is subject to harassment and mockery.
- Reckless Posting: Children should understand that what they post online cannot necessarily be undone and disappear. An uncareful post in social media can be used by bullies and other unscrupulous parties to harass, embarrass, and even carry out blackmail.
- Phishing & Identity Theft: Have your kids understand the importance of protecting online privacy, and that thieves are out to steal money and confidential information. Show them the various tricks of phishing schemes and tell them to never click on suspicious links in emails or to enter personal or credit card data online before first checking it over with you.
- Inappropriate Content: It's a sad fact that the internet contains a large amount of violent and graphic sexual content as well as other inappropriate subject matter. Keep a close eye on what your children are viewing - that's not violating their privacy, but your parental duty to safeguard them from harmful influences.
- Stalkers/Predators: While the likelihood of online predators chancing upon your children may be overplayed in the media, it is still a reality of our day. Tell your children to withhold any personal information when communicating with unknown people in games and on social networks. Inform them that online identities aren't always what they seem. You should call your police department if someone contacts your child for sexual purposes.
To further protect your children from everything from bullies and predators to viruses and identity theft, also think about kid-tailored services and filter software that your internet service company likely provides. Ensuring the safety of our children online translates to a straightforward approach: better safe than sorry.