Internet safety 101: helping your child stay safe

The internet has become an indispensable aspect for people all around the world. Besides improving our quality of life in fundamental ways, it has also democratised access to an ocean of knowledge, facilitating learning and personal growth.

Indeed, the internet contains many wonderful things that can benefit anyone using it. But don’t be fooled; it’s far from harmless, and dangers may lie in wait just a button or two away.

A 2018 report by UNICEF states that one-third of internet users worldwide are children. Unfortunately, the internet and its associated platforms do not automatically curate content suitable for them.

Therefore, it’s their parent’s responsibility to ensure that they navigate across the internet safely, by carrying out the following actions:

  • Be proactively aware of the dangers lurking around children browsing the internet.

  • Take preemptive measures that adjust how the internet works for children and to make it safe to use


Being aware of internet risks

Here are some possible risks highlighted by Cybersecurity Agency Singapore - a government-led initiative with a mission to make the internet safer for children and families. As a parent or guardian, it is helpful to be made fully aware of them and how your children may be affected by it.

#1: Online bullying

Cyberbullying can be as innocuous as unhealthy gossip, or be as harmful as outright threats of violence online. The trauma caused by such online harassment can scar a person for life. Peer pressure is also another aspect of cyberbullying, as it coerces the victim to attempt ‘challenges’ that may result in public embarrassment or self-harm for validation.

#2: Online scams

Scams have been on the rise in recent years, some of them so elaborate that even the most wary of individuals may be fooled, let alone children. Mostly present in online gathering spaces such as social media platforms and online games or through operating dubious websites, scammers usually employ fear to coerce their targets to give up information such as online account passwords or bank account details.

#3: Online grooming

It’s easy to remain anonymous on the internet. Unfortunately, some individuals abuse this feature to target unsuspecting children and influence them. Most do so by hanging out in public unmoderated chat rooms and social networking sites, such as Discord, Snapchat, Telegram, among others.

Although any minor can be susceptible to their advances, these individuals are more likely to single out those who appear lonely and/or are seeking companionship online, as children matching that profile are commonly perceived to be easier targets.

Taking precautions

When it comes to protecting your children from internet risks, a multipronged approach is necessary to ensure their safety. Here are some strategies:

Communicate

Inform your children about proper internet use while cautioning them about the downsides. Discuss internet safety openly, getting actively involved in their daily activities. A list of dos and don’ts can inculcate the practice of disciplined internet use among children.

Children feel valued when you seek their feedback. You may wish to seek your child’s assistance with online activities when the opportunity arises. You will be surprised how much more they know!

Secure

Using parental controls, regulating privacy settings, and adding age-appropriate filters to all software applications and devices are effective strategies to ensure internet safety. Technology vendors have created these inbuilt software and hardware tools to ensure internet safety for your children.

Restricting control by limiting access time or disallowing access to specific devices or applications is another way of enforcing internet safety.

Supervise

Keep an eye on your child's online activities and try to find out more about it by asking them about it in a trusting, honest, and well-intended manner. It’s important to refrain from being judgemental about their preferences in order to encourage them to open up to you.

Despite all that effort to understand what they do on the internet, your child might still consider it an intrusion into their privacy and will be reluctant to share more about what they like to do, so take it easy and don’t push them too hard.

Conclusion

Internet safety is an essential aspect of 21st century parenting. The online world is such a vast domain that it’s almost impossible to control or eliminate every risk that may be prevalent on it, which is why the most practical thing to do is to educate ourselves and our children as much as possible so that they may protect themselves while using the internet responsibly.

It’s also important to remember that the internet isn’t all bad; the benefits that it provides in our daily lives vastly outweigh the negatives. For one thing, it contains a vast repository of knowledge that’s freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection, allowing anyone with the time and patience to learn about anything they wish. Geniebook’s suite of online learning products is designed to help students around the world to do just that.

As long as parents like us pay attention to what our children are doing on the internet and teach them about proper usage, we can rest assured that they will be able to care for themselves while online.

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