If there is one thing we agree on as parents, it is that, all children deserve a safe and happy childhood. This is getting harder for parents to ensure with the advent of gadgets as parents no longer know how to protect their children from evils that inadvertently come with these gadgets. When I was growing up in the 80s, ‘out there’ meant outside my home and later, school. For today’s children ‘out there’ is now vast and includes the cyberspace where parents now have to protect their kids from child predators, sexting, social media and gaming addiction as well as cyber bullying.
Know what they are up to
No matter the level of a parent’s techno savviness it is still primarily the parent’s responsibility to educate their children of all the possible dangers in vast cyberspace. First thing any parent should do is to educate themselves about and how to install monitoring apps on their kids’ devices. Parents should stress to the kids that this is done for protection and not to invade the child’s privacy. These monitoring apps are very helpful as they block the kid’s device from accessing websites with adult content. The apps can also be used to track the device and by extension the child’s exact location. Some even allow the parent to remotely shut down the kid’s device thereby allowing parents to control how long their children spend on their devices even during those times when the parent is not at home and the child has to go to sleep.
If parents cannot install or use these monitoring apps then they should not allow their children to use internet connected devices in the privacy of their rooms. Parents should have their children use their devices in a place like the lounge where when they walk past they can have sight of the device screen. Asking to read what the children have on the screen also helps parents know whether their children are not communicating with people that the parents’ would not approve of.
Children and Social Media
No parent should allow children to have social media accounts on platforms like Facebook or Twitter before they are of an age that understands the pitfalls that come with these platforms. If your children for whatever reason have social media accounts teach them carefully what to and what not to post. Impress upon them that once something has been posted in cyberspace it stays online forever even after they ‘delete’ it.
Look out for predators
Parents should teach their kids that there are many predators that prey on children who are online. These child predators often use sexting to groom children first online and then later arranging meetings with them to engage in sexual relations with them that are nothing but statutory rape. Children need to know that they are targeted not because the child predators ‘love’ them but because of their immaturity that make them easy to take advantage of. The most effective way of dealing with such is making your children aware of the existence of such people and teaching to avoid them at all costs as nothing good ever comes out of such liaisons.
Social media and gaming addiction is a growing problem. Parents just need to get their children to reduce the sites they have accounts on as well as reducing the hours they spend on their devices playing games. Parents should monitor who their children are befriending or following. Priority should be for the children to befriend and follow people they know personally with any other “follows” only approved by the parents. Parents should have their children on their devices a certain number of minutes or hours and children should set prescribed time allocations for the use of gadgets.
Cyberbullying takes the form of other people spreading lies about your child on the internet thereby undermining your child. It can also be the posting of nasty comments on your child’s posts and pictures. Cyberbullying might lead to your child’s depression, low self-esteem, constant anger, and failure at school and in extreme cases, suicide. As with most things in life, prevention is the best form of defence. Should cyberbullying occur however parents should encourage their kids to report any such incidence as soon as possible so the parent can help.
Lines of communication between parent and child should always be open. Children should be made aware and avoid anyone who intimidates, threatens, excessively teases and who promises to harm them in any way. Parents should always believe in and be supportive of their children. This will make them feel secure and be willing to easily open up.