Keeping your kids safe in cyberspace
Trolls may be lurking around every corner to ruin your child’s experience of the internet. Here is a guide to avoiding danger.
For most Kiwis, the wonderful world of the WWW is just a click away. But while the internet has become like an extra limb when it comes to our business, education, communication and entertainment, it can also hold some deeply sinister secrets that have the ability to psychologically harm our children.
Trolls bully unsuspecting people while they hide under the veil of anonymity. Bad people pretend they’re not who they really are. Pornography can appear out of nowhere. And too often we hear stories about vulnerable Kiwi kids who’ve been confronted with online situations like these, but haven’t known how to deal with them.
Think about these scenarios. When a kid from your child’s school posts lies about them on social media, labelling them ‘sluts’ or worse, they might hide their shame from you because they’re worried they might get in trouble. When another kid shows them a sexually-driven video, they might not look away because they don’t want to be labelled ‘uncool’. When a seemingly kind stranger online gives them attention, they might feel flattered and start up a relationship that might seem innocent at first but could quickly become something else.
The internet is a wonderful thing. But it can also be very dangerous. Parents need to know what their kids are doing online so they can educate and help protect them. Open and honest conversation might not be that ‘cool’, but it’s essential to ensure your kids remain safe and happy when they’re online.
‘‘The best way to approach the conversation is to ask your child about the type of things they see online and the advice they would give to a friend facing online challenges,’’ says Martin Cocker, NetSafe’s Chief Executive Officer. ‘‘Kids often find it easier to discuss things in the third person and this is a good way to understand what they do and how they behave online. We have more parenting tips at www.netsafe.org.nz’’.
Don’t be Big Brother and dictate everything your kids do; teach them how to use technology safely and respectfully. Engage them in open and kind conversation about what they do online, in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they’re in trouble. And if you don’t understand much about social media yourself, learn. (And Neighbourly.co.nz is a safe and easy way to start!)
It’s not just about how they deal with other people approaching them online though; talk to them about how they treat others. Programmes like Attitude’s Connected, developed by Vodafone and The Parenting Place, teach Kiwi youth to be respectful to other people when they’re using technology.
Most people own smartphones these days. The internet is instantly accessible, and therefore kids are increasingly susceptible to stumbling across images they shouldn’t or being subjected to cyberbullying. The more time we take to understand what our children are doing online, the safer our families will be. And that’s got to be a good thing for our neighbourhood too.
The internet is a wonderful thing. But it can also be very dangerous.