A recent survey by Pew Research Center on Teens, Social Media & Technology found that 95 per cent of teens in the US between the ages of 13 and 17 have access to a smartphone, and 45 per cent are online on a “near-constant” basis.
These numbers aren’t surprising given how pretty much everyone is glued to their phones and other digital devices, even when walking down the street. Apart from the danger of falling into sink holes or walking into street lights, being online also comes with other risks, such as scammers and online predators.
Epic Games, developer of the massively popular game Fortnite, recently issued a warning about scams in the game that trick young players into paying for free or discounted V-Bucks, the virtual in-game currency. Apart from monetary scams that leave you out of pocket, there are also online predators that are looking to harm your children.
For example, a 42-year-old Australian man was charged last year after allegedly posing as singer Justin Bieber to solicit explicit images from his victims.
Given these cases, it’s understandable that you may want to stop your children from ever going online in order to protect them.
However, it’s far better to equip them with the right skills so they will be able to navigate the sometimes-murky waters themselves.
To prepare yourself for this important conversation, heed these 5 tips:
1. Be honest about the dangers
As soon as your kids are old enough to get online, have an age-appropriate chat with them about what they could encounter.
Be honest about the issue of predators and scammers and advise them to come to you should they come across such incidents.
Let them know that the anonymity of the internet allows people to pretend to be someone they’re not so, just as they wouldn’t trust strangers in real life, they need to be extra careful online.
2. Encourage them to speak up
Flag certain behaviours or incidents that they should immediately alert you to.
These include someone they don’t know trying to communicate with them online, coming across inappropriate sites, and someone harassing or threatening them online. Here are some handy factsheets for you and your kids.
3. Reassure them that they won’t be punished
Your kids may be scared to tell you if they’ve encountered trouble online for fear that you may restrict their phone or computer privileges.
Make it clear that you won’t punish them for being honest and that your role is to help them and keep them safe.