Now, I’m not saying the internet is an entirely bad thing. Far from it. In some cases, the internet can be essential. For example:
- The internet can help your child be successful at school, with activities and research opportunities that can bolster their education.
- The internet can encourage your children’s creativity, with resources available to improve their written, artistic, and musical abilities.
- The internet can be fun, with games, websites, and apps that can keep them entertained in their downtime.
However, the internet offers dangers that are detrimental to their wellbeing. As parents, we need to be alert to some of these dangers. These include the following:
- Cyberbullying. No longer is bullying only confined within the boundaries of school. Thanks to social media, children can be attacked over the internet, with gossip and written abuse targeted at your child. Children need social media education, from you as the parent and from their teachers at school. Staying in touch on Facebook etc. is useful, but not when these networks are used by school bullies to torment your child.
- Pornography. In the past, adult sites were only available when paid for with a credit card. No longer is this the case. There are many websites where such material is freely available. Unfortunately, it can also be accessed accidentally, as simple Google search terms can bring up a host of pornography websites to the unwary web surfer. To avoid this problem, you need to install a web blocker to filter out any unsavoury sites. If you find your children are purposefully accessing adult material, you need to have a conversation with them about relationships, and the importance of respecting the opposite sex, as well as their own bodies.
- Online predators. Chat rooms and social media should be a fun way to talk to their peers. Sadly, adults use these sites to groom unsuspecting children. There have been cases where children have been blackmailed into sending lewd photos of themselves to adults, and there is the added risk of your child arranging to meet somebody, under the pretence that the person in question is another child, or is ‘a friend.’ You need to monitor your children’s time on the internet, listening in on web chats and online video games, as well as warning them about the dangers present when speaking to strangers.
- Social exclusion. While the internet offers advantages for socialising, the opposite is also true. Children can spend hours alone on the internet, even when engaged in harmless activities. As a result, they spend less time in face-to-face contact with others, less time engaging in other activities outside of the internet, and less time focussing on the things that matter, such as their school work. As the parent, you need to ensure your child doesn’t become withdrawn into the virtual world on too regular a basis. Limit screen time, encourage your child to do something else, and organise day trips and holidays where wifi isn’t readily available.
As I said, the internet offers many wonderful possibilities for our children, but the opposite is also true. If you spot any of these cyberbullying signs, notice your child is talking to somebody unfamiliar to you, or is behaving in any way outside of the norm, you need to get to the reasons why to better protect your child. Their wellbeing may be at risk if you don’t.
*This is a collaborative post