When we think of children’s cyber safety, we most often think of monitoring Internet use on computers.
Some parents do, though not enough. What more can be done?
Technology is everywhere.
Personal computers and smart phones grant us easy access to games, chatting forums, and countless threads of information that seep into every corner of our lives.
Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing on the Internet, and should monitor how they spend their time online.
Research suggests that children’s usage and attitudes change depending on parents’ attitudes, engagement, and monitoring.
Be proactive. Be aware of the inherent dangers of Internet usage, as well as the addictive pull that the Internet can have. Did you know that there is such a thing as Internet Addiction Disorder? In South Korea, there is even a boot camp for Internet-addicted adolescents!
Awareness and monitoring can be practiced in multiple ways.
• Use privacy settings, especially on social networking sites, and parental controls even on gaming devices. Check browsing history – be wary if your child has turned off the browsing history. Weigh the risks and benefits of what you block and what you don’t block. Consider your child’s age, developmental level, curiosity, technological prowess, and friends’ behaviours.
• Think about computer placement in the home. If you have a laptop, establish rules about when and where it can be used. If your children use a smart phone, be clear about what they can do on it.
• Be transparent and open with your children. View online content together. Educate them about various websites that they can use. Depending on your situation, share your concerns.
• Ask your child’s school how they protect children from the potential dangers of Internet usage.
Find out the computer use policy at the school you take your children too and the homes where they go to play.
Of course, we will never be able to monitor 100 per cent of our children’s time. But we also need to pull our heads out of the sand and take the precautions necessary to keep our children safe in our ever-growing technological world.
The dangers that await your child on the net
According to Edna Karungi, a special media trainer, these dangers include health complications.
Like it is with adults, children that are big internet users are always seated in front of their computer or holding the phone too close, are more likely to suffer sight problems.
Social sites on which children’s identities are revealed to all to see pose a safety risk. They become easy targets for kidnappers, sex offenders and other abusers. They also get access to harmful content such as pornography.
What parents can do
Instead of confiscating the gadgets, talk to the children about the possible dangers of searching for certain content on internet. Make sure they also know the dangers in overly exposing their identity through pictures and location.
Involve other adults such as teachers in sensitising the young ones on internet usage. Better still, urge your children to join internet clubs at school which may help sensitise them on internet usage through their peers they understand better that way.