Nearly 70% of parents say parenting is now more difficult than it was 20 years ago, with technology and social media as the top two cited reasons. These days parents are also extremely worried that their child’s usage of social media would result in anxiety or sadness (53%), diminished self-esteem (54%), or being harassed or bullied by others (54%).
Continuing our blog series on making a difference by protecting our children from trafficking, today we will look at online safety and describe tactics to prevent online child recruitment and exploitation.
That is why internet safety is important:
In today’s digital age, children are more connected than ever before. While the internet offers numerous educational and social opportunities, it also exposes them to various risks, including online exploitation. As parents, it is crucial to prioritize online safety and implement effective strategies to protect our children. This comprehensive guide will provide practical tips and strategies to safeguard your child from online exploitation, emphasizing the importance of internet safety measures and parental supervision.
What are the tactics for better online safety to protect our children?
Regulate Their Access:
- Parental Controls:
Utilize parental control features available on devices, internet browsers, and applications. These tools enable you to restrict access to inappropriate content, set time limits, and monitor your child’s online activities. For example,
- Google Family Link allows parents to set digital ground rules to guide their kids as they learn, play, and explore online. With Family Link, you can approve or block apps your child wants to download from the Google Play Store, keep an eye on their screen time, and set device bedtime.
- In addition to Google’s own tools, there are several-party third parental control tools that are compatible with Google Chrome, such as:
- Net Nanny: This tool offers comprehensive monitoring features, including website filtering, time management, and profanity masking.
- Norton Family: This tool provides web filtering, time supervision, and personal information protection.
- Qustodio: This tool offers features like web filtering, time controls, and social media monitoring.
- Remember, no tool is 100% foolproof, so it’s important to also have open conversations with your children about online safety and responsible internet use.
- Safe Browsing
Teach your child safe browsing habits, such as avoiding suspicious websites, clicking on unknown links, or downloading unfamiliar files. Encourage them to only visit trusted and age-appropriate websites.
- Privacy Settings:
Review and adjust privacy settings on social media platforms and applications to limit the personal information visible to strangers. Emphasize the importance of sharing information only with trusted individuals. 32% of the survivors stated that their traffickers monitored them on their social media accounts.
Teach Online Etiquette:
- Responsible Posting:
Educate your child about the potential consequences of sharing personal information, photos, or videos online such as
- Misuse of Information: Personal information can be used for nefarious purposes, such as identity theft or fraud. This could lead to significant financial and emotional distress.
- Exposure to Inappropriate Content or People: Sharing personal information can attract unwanted attention from inappropriate individuals or groups, including online predators or sex traffickers. This can put a child’s safety at risk.
- Cyberbullying: Personal photos or videos can be used as a tool for cyberbullying. Once content is shared online, it’s difficult to control how it’s used or who sees it.
- Loss of Privacy: Once content is shared online, it’s out there for the world to see. This can lead to a significant loss of privacy and control over personal information.
- Virality: Content shared online can quickly go viral, reaching a much larger audience than intended. This can lead to unintended consequences, such as widespread criticism or mockery.
Teach them to think before posting and to avoid sharing anything that could compromise their safety or reputation.
- Cyberbullying Awareness:
Discuss the issue of cyberbullying and the importance of treating others with respect online. Encourage your child to report any instances of cyberbullying they encounter and offer support in handling such situations. You can report any instances of online exploitation by going to CyberTipline, or contacting your local law enforcement.
Supervise Online Activities:
- Age-Appropriate Content:
Ensure that your child accesses age-appropriate content, applications, and games. Regularly review their online activities and guide them toward positive and educational resources.
- Online Friends:
Teach your child about the risks of interacting with strangers online. Encourage them to only connect with friends they know in real life and avoid sharing personal information with unknown individuals.
Stay Informed and Updated:
- Stay Current with Online Trends:
Regularly educate yourself about the latest online platforms, apps, and social media trends. This knowledge will enable you to have informed conversations with your child and identify potential risks.
- Online Safety Websites and Blogs: Websites like SafeKids.com, Common Sense Media, and the National Online Safety website provide up-to-date information, tips, and resources for parents. They cover a wide range of topics, from the latest social media trends to how to set up parental controls.
- Webinars and Online Workshops: Organizations such as the Cyberbullying Research Center and Internet Matters often host webinars and online workshops on various topics related to online safety. These can be a great way to learn from experts in the field.
- Social Media Platforms: Follow or subscribe to the official safety centers of popular social media platforms like Facebook’s Safety Center, Instagram’s Well-being Center, or Twitter’s Safety Center. They often share updates on new safety features, tips, and best practices.
- Online Courses: Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer courses on digital literacy and online safety. For example, Google’s “Be Internet Awesome” is a program designed to teach kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety.
- Parental Control Software Blogs: If you use parental control software, follow their blogs or news updates. Companies like Net Nanny, Norton Family, or Qustodio often share useful articles and tips.
- Local Workshops and Seminars: Check if your local community, school district, or library offers workshops or seminars on internet safety.
- Books: There are numerous books available that provide guidance on this topic. Titles like “The Art of Screen Time” by Anya Kamenetz or “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers” by Nancy Jo Sales can be very informative
The above tactics will undoubtedly provide a framework for staying informed about internet safety, their effectiveness hinges on the foundation of trust between you and your child. Open dialogue, mutual respect, and understanding are paramount in this digital age. It’s essential to foster an environment where your child feels comfortable discussing their online experiences, concerns, and mistakes without fear of judgment or punishment. This trust not only facilitates the implementation of safety measures but also empowers your child to navigate the digital world responsibly and confidently. Remember, the goal is not to shield them from the digital world entirely, but to equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to engage with it safely and wisely.
Therefore the next post will explore the parent-child connection