Keeping children safe online

Keeping children safe online
Posted on 03/12/2019
Knowing what is truth and fiction on the internet challenges all of us, but just think what it would be like to be a young child or teenager trying to discern if something on the internet is truth or fiction. As they navigate the internet, they can come across the urban legends  Slender Man or the MOMO challenge. The first inspired two girls to kill their classmate by stabbing her and the second encourages children to perform self harming acts. As parents and professionals we are horrified by this. The internet is an excellent resource but it is also a place of danger for our children.  Parents worry if their children are talking to strangers online or sharing personal information with them. Are they being bullied through social media or perhaps they are the ones doing the  bullying?  We put in place parental controls only to find out that they do not work as we had anticipated them to work. Even the child who we are protecting has learned to bypass our controls or our controls only work inside our home and school. So what are parents and teachers to do to insure our students do not succumb to the pitfalls they face every day on the internet?  We can warn them about the MOMO challenge or Slender Man and tell them not to push that shiny red button or we can encourage an open dialogue about what they are seeing on social media and the internet. Encouraging open dialogue is very important in teaching them good online practices. The more we get them talking about what is on the internet the more prepared they are when they come across the hoaxes such as MOMO and Slender Man and not fall for them.

Parents worry about the internet's three C's.
Content - What they see
Contact - Who they are interacting with online
Conduct - How they behave and engage people

We use parental controls to try to keep our children and students safe.  There are several things that we use to accomplish this: privacy systems on devices, keeping video games and YouTube watching in shared family spaces, or using the restricted mode on your child's account. If we see our children switching screens when we walk into the room, or notice new phone numbers we get suspicious and start investigating what is going on. This works for awhile until the child becomes more savvy. While the parents are busy providing for their children, the children are learning more and more about the internet and the different features associated with the apps they are using. The parents then find that they have to rely on their child to educate them. Everything we are trying to do to protect our children, eventually, will not be enough. We can, however, provide an atmosphere where openness and transparency of any online activity can be shared among the adults and students. If you know someone that is bullied or you are being bullied, then sharing it with your teacher and parent becomes easier. If a stranger tries to talk to a child online, that child will feel comfortable in reporting it to you. The more they interact with adults, the easier it becomes for the student to share that information. For more age appropriate guidelines read, “Helping Parents Keep their children safe online.”

Navigating a child through the use of social media and the internet is a difficult task for any parent. When teachers and parents work as a team, together they can encourage open dialogue with the student, and then the student can become more savvy to the hoaxes and challenges that are on the internet. Our children and students learn lifelong internet skills from the knowledge we give them as they make their way into the world.