Parents are always concerned about their child’s safety and there are lots of reasons to worry about. In the digital era, there is one more danger for kids and teens: online predators. As kids spend a lot of time online, chatting to friends and making new friends, they are prone to becoming victims of online predators, unless you establish a form of parental control and you talk to them about the dangers of the online medium.
Teach them to be suspicious
Small children learn they shouldn’t talk to strangers, but when they are online they are always talking to people they don’t know. In many cases, behind the social media profile of a teen, there is an old man or woman, trying to prey on a naive child. The same can be true when it comes to online game players.
Talk to your child about the possibility of meeting an online predator and tell them to be a little suspicious when they talk to people they don’t know in the real world.
Another important thing you need to discuss with your child is that teens can also be online predators. You can pick examples from the news to show your child, so they can understand that even bullying is a form of abuse and it can turn into something worse.
What to talk about online and what not to
Teens and kids are curious and can easily be attracted by out-of-the-box topics or tabu topics. If they will find someone who seems to be another teen or even a young adult who is willing to talk about drugs or sex, they will be tempted to share sensitive information with them. When you want to protect your child from online predators you need to tell them what they are allowed to talk about online. The home address, parent’s financial data, home layout and when the home will be empty are all sensitive information and should never be discussed online. Tell your child that sharing these is a risky behavior which can have serious consequences.
Encourage them to talk to you
One of the best ways to protect your child from the dangers of the online medium is to make sure they are open about whom they talk to online and what they talk about. Encourage your child to tell you when they chat to someone new online. Be open about what they tell you, so you can spot signs of potentially dangerous behaviors as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to encourage the child to use the home computer and the speakers when they chat online or play online games, so you can hear them. If they tend to isolate themselves and close the door when they talk to someone, it might be a sign of a problem.
Teens and sexting
Teens are prone to online flirting and they can easily be attracted by someone who asks them for sexy photos. However, things can escalate and the stranger can take advantage of the relationship and ask for more. Talk to your child about what is normal and when they should set a limit when they are flirting online. What makes them uncomfortable is probably dangerous. Teach them the difference between a flirt and harassment and encourage them to block people who make them feel uncomfortable or tell you about them. Also tell them they should never disclose their address to anyone, no matter how close the relationship might seem. If they want to meet someone in real life after talking online, you need to be present and the meeting needs to take place in a public space.
For more information, read: Kid’s Online Safety Handbook for Parents [A Rare Guide]