Our children are constantly online; the online world is often a foreign place for parents, and can be a little daunting. We all want to trust that our children are doing the right thing online; acting in an appropriate manner, not tormenting or intimidating others and being respectful but the sad and shocking truth is that this isn’t always the case.
Two out of five young people are bullied online. This statistic is far too high and it is our responsibility as parents to do everything in our power to ensure our children are safe online.
Take some time becoming familiar with websites that your child visits; learn what these sites are about, how they work, learn the language and find out what makes them so popular. This will save hours of angst, your child’s frustration with your lack of social media knowledge, and will give you a sound understanding of the platforms your child visits and the risks associated with these sites.
Conversations with your teen will evolve, once you have this insight. It will be made so much easier, as you will both be on the same page, even if you are coming at it from different angles. Your understanding of why they are online may make a little bit more sense.
Never delete anything
It is hard for children to escape cyber-bullying when they’re online often, encourage your child to never delete anything, whether it is a text message or a comment sent online.
You can get a clear understanding of what is happening by keeping the browser history, old text messages and even photos taken and received via SMS. More importantly it will provide you with evidence in case you need to make your child’s school or even the authorities aware of any situations should they escalate beyond your control.
Address what can go wrong
It is so easy to think ‘that will never happen to me’ but the scary reality is that it could, and it does.
We need to prepare young people by discussing the things that can go wrong; it’s important that they understand what can happen if they tell friends their password, or if they accept friend requests from people they do not know.
We want our children to be trusting and calm, but we also want them to be smart and knowledgeable about the risks that can evolve from being present online.” Sacha Kaluri
It is essential that they know to speak up if someone they do not know is attempting to connect with them and to show caution when interacting with people online, even when they’re their friends.
Lead by example
We hear about countless examples in the media where well-educated adults have bullied individuals online, regardless of how it looks and the consequences that follow. A great example is Australia’s Next Top Model host Charlotte Dawson and fashion designer, Alex Perry, both have been heavily subjected to bullying via Instragam and Twitter, and fortunately they have spoken out about this publicly.
Adults often act callously online; it can be easy to think this sort of behavior is ok because you understand the consequences, or are informed about the situation, however it is setting the perception to your children that this sort of behavior is ok.
Chat regularly and positively
Two out of five young people are bullied online and the majority of them will never tell anyone.
This scary statistic exists because many bullying victims are afraid of being ridiculed, judged or subjected to more tormenting.
Ensuring there are no secrets is the only way to stay safe online, which is why it is so important to regular open conversations with no limits. Your children will feel comfortable to come to you with anything, and feel that their secrets will be kept safe with you.
Nothing online is private
It is critical that your child understands that if they upload photos of themselves or friends that are of a sexual or illicit nature, there can be huge consequences that can follow them throughout their lives.
The unknown reality is that we can’t rely on privacy settings to protect our children online. Nothing placed online is ever private; whatever is uploaded online is there for life, even when you delete something, an imprint of it remains and can be tracked down.
It isn’t about prohibiting them from sharing their experiences but informing them to make the right choices about what is appropriate for online and what isn’t. A good rule of thumb is “if you wouldn’t want to see it on a billboard in the middle of the city, then don’t post it online.”
Cyber-safety is not just a once off discussion, it is something that needs to be continually discussed over and over in an open-minded and understanding manner.
Social networking sites are a great place to stay in touch with people, so it is key to have fun with it whilst being safe. The idea of cyber-safety is to not scare our children out of using online mediums; we want them to embrace technology because it is only going to become more and more prevalent in our society.