Many, if not most of us will agree that the internet is a great invention and one that has radically changed our lives for better. It has changed and shaped our culture in all aspects be it entertainment, commerce, communication or media.
Unfortunately, with these great advancements comes some serious risks, the most vulnerable being kids. Monitoring what your kids are doing online is critical and can mean the difference between keeping your kids safe and losing all control over them.
Exposure to pornography
The internet gives us access to vast information and content, but with the good comes the bad too. Unfortunately, your kid is exposed to this too. Research shows that about 1 in every 8 web searches is for erotic content. Having your child exposed to this type of content at an early age can shape their attitudes towards sex and usually in an unhealthy manner.
Sharing personal information
One of the more prevalent dangers of the internet is identity theft. Unfortunately, kids can easily be lured to websites that are a scam and may end up disclosing sensitive information about themselves. They could be signing up for membership or an app and unsuspectingly disclose their address, their parent’s credit card information or email address. It is important to explain to your kids never to divulge their personal information online.
Exposure to unsuitable content while gaming
Online games are fun and can be educational but often, some contain hidden dangers. A lot of the games contain content that is very sexual, violent and has crude language. Other games that may seemingly appear safe are contained in adult websites with all manner of adult content. This has become increasingly easier for underage teenagers to buy mature-rated games online with some allowing kids to interact with total strangers who can be of negative influence.
The internet helps us meet people from all aspects of life and create new friendships. Unfortunately, not everyone is well intentioned. Your child falls at a great risk of meeting online predators when their internet use is not regulated. Predators are quite good at manipulating kids so as to build a relationship of dependence on each other. They will often take advantage of your kid’s need to be liked or their sexual curiosity. These interactions can lead to offline relationships or even kidnappings and abductions.
Harassment and bullying
Cyber bullying is nothing new due to the option of users having the ability to create fake anonymous accounts. These users can give your child agony by posting all manner of hurtful and offensive words. This may also expose them to threats and blackmail from other users leading to extreme reactions such as suicide.
Sexting refers to sending or receiving naked or partially naked images or videos via the internet on your mobile phone. Unfortunately a lot of kids are exposed to this. Out of curiosity and peer pressure, kids are engaging in raunchy behaviour which could be forwarded as child pornography. Once these photos are in the internet, they will remain there forever and can have serious consequences in the future.
Social networks such as Facebook are very popular and almost everyone has an account. If not well monitored, your kid could be exposed to unfiltered information on their feeds which may influence their behaviour. Even though the minimum age to create an account on Facebook is 13, many under that age are able to open accounts sometimes even with the help of their parents.
According to research, about 48 hours of videos are uploaded on YouTube every minute. That is what makes YouTube the largest video sharing platform in the world. Unfortunately, your kid might be exposed to inappropriate content through the platform. Though YouTube has its community guidelines to help sieve inappropriate content, a lot of users do break these guidelines. Videos with extreme violent nature, heavy sexual innuendo and foul language are often uploaded and your kid could be exposed to these.
That said, it is never a good idea for your kids to have phones in the first place. And those who do or have access to the internet via laptops, tabs and whatever else, your kid’s safety should be a priority. Parents need to take deliberate measures to ensure that the internet is a safe environment for their children. Monitoring and tracking what your kid is doing online is a critical step.