In this modern world, internet access is at an arm’s reach at nearly every moment of every day. As adults, most of us use the internet responsibly — as a tool as well as a source of entertainment. We grab at our phones whenever we need to look up the distance between your current location and the closest Starbucks, definitions of words, to check e-mails, FaceTime friends, to keep updated about current affairs, etc. If we seek personal connection online, it is more likely (but not always) done in a safe manner. As adults, many of us can smell something fishy if our gut feeling tells us something is wrong. Children, on the other hand, do not have that same instincts as they are often all too naive to the horrors of the world around them.
The internet can be tremendously useful; however, as with most things, it has a dark side as well. In fact, we can’t think of a single teen that doesn’t spend dozens of hours online each week keeping up with celebrity gossip, influencer videos, snapchatting and texting friends. These behaviors have become the norm to the point where many parents do not question what their kids are doing on their smartphones or on their computers.
When you break down all of the possibilities, the internet can be a terrifying place. What if your kids are providing strangers with personal information or accessing the dark web? All too often adults pretend to be teens and steal personal information from kids by guising themselves as teens going through the same problems our kids are going through.
What if your children are partaking in cyberbullying of other children or being cyberbullied themselves? Cyberbullying is very common. In fact, nearly 34% of kids between 12 and 17 have experienced it. If your kid isn’t cyberbullying, chances are that they at least know a few people that are. Many teens are unaware of the consequences related to cyberbullying and how it affects their own and others’ mental health.
What if your kids are developing what they consider to be meaningful connections with total strangers? Do you really know who is on the other side of the computer screen? A survey of 4,000 children found that 43% of kids between 8 – 13 years old are talking to people they have never met in real life, online. (via cybersafeireland.org) This matters because kids are often very susceptible influence from strangers or outsiders.
Now, we get it. We can’t ban our kids from using the internet. It is far too integrated into our society and provides children with the opportunity to learn about and explore their environment as well as the world around them. What we can do instead is provide a list of tips that are easy to implement or remember so your kids can stay safe while continuing to reap the benefits of internet:
- Stranger danger is not a new concept. We can all agree that we need to teach our kids to be wary of strangers in person, but we also must apply this same lesson for our kids when they talk to people online or via text. The key is to remember that no matter what the circumstance, you should NEVER share personal information or pictures with unknown people on any app, messaging platform or via text. In fact, if you can, you may want to consider refraining from providing such information to people you even do know because once something is online, it will always be there. Create an environment for your kids where if someone tries to force them to share information, they feel comfortable approaching you for guidance immediately.
- Use complex and strong passwords and change them often to keep your profiles, data and information secure. In the online world, you need to protect your information (such as chats, pictures, phone numbers) by setting a strong password. You can do this by using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and digits. Be sure to never share your passwords with anyone, not even a close friend or family member. If you must share your password urgently, change it as quickly as you can afterward.
- If you are providing internet access to kids, take advantage of parental control settings softwares and apps have built in. You can often implement parental controls on devices to disallow the downloading of any unapproved apps or the browsing of any unapproved websites. Make sure to report and block any person or content that seems harmful or inappropriate in any way. Shaping their internet community is another winning step towards keeping your kids safe. It is your job to decide what you do and do not want to expose them to.
The internet is a powerful tool, and all tools can be used for good or bad. It is important to make use of it wisely, which means part of your job is to make sure your children’s digital environment is as safe as can be. Act as a role model for your children by adhering to the above tips and following the same rules. Offer your children frequent reminders to keep private information private or to change passwords regularly in order to create the habit. Be sure to look out for part 2 of this article in the coming weeks. Be safe — happy surfing!
About the Parrish Law Firm
Whether you have been injured in a car accident, bitten by a dog or suffered severe side effects from a dangerous medication, you are likely to face a large, cut- throat insurance company standing in between you and the compensation you deserve. At Parrish Law Firm, PLLC, our legal team has extensive knowledge from inside the insurance industry regarding how these cases are defended because firm founder James R. Parrish used to represent the insurance companies in personal injury cases for many years.
Our goal is simple: To get you the settlement that is rightfully yours. James has sharpened his skills with over 20 years of experience as an injury attorney and has won millions in settlements and court verdicts. His firm, the Parrish Law Firm, has been recognized with high honors and has a 10/10 rating on avvo.com.
The Parrish Law Firm offers a FREE consultation. To schedule this consultation call us at (571) 229 – 1800 or visit us at www.theparrishlawfirm.com.