Cyber safety for kids

Cyber safety for kids

Cyber safety for kids

It is no surprise that the internet is not entirely safe. It has its dark secrets and often we find ourselves thinking twice before using it for our personal use. So it is obvious that at a time like now when kids are regularly using the internet, we need to ensure safe practices.  Cybersafety for kids has quickly become an important issue to tackle. Kids today have unfiltered exposure to limitless stream of information, entertainment, and content. Although the internet comes with a huge number of benefits today and allows connectivity with the world like never before, there are a few concerns.  But it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. There are some serious risks involved in the cyber world making cyber safety for kids an important topic.

Why is cyber safety for kids important?

Let us have a look at the risks involved for kids while interacting on the internet.

  1. Contact risks
    Contact risks happen when children come into contact with strangers online who often pose as kids. For example, a child might be coaxed to share personal information after clicking on a pop-up message or meet in person with someone they’ve met online.
  2. Conduct risks
    Conduct risks include children acting in ways that might hurt others or getting hurt by others. For example, a child might fight with his siblings over a game or behave violently, or even accidentally making in-app purchases.
  3. Contract risks
    Contract risks happen when children unintentionally sign up to unfair contracts, terms, or conditions. For example, a child may click a button that allows an app to send them inappropriate notifications or have access to their camera.
  4. Content risks
    These risks include children coming across content that may harm them or traumatize them. For example, if a child is exposed to adult content, pornography, images of animal cruelty, or simulated violence. These things may disturb children and leave them disgusted or scared.

Tips for Safe-keeping

1. Talk it out

The best way to ensure cyber safety for kids is to spread awareness. It will help them if you talk about the harms of using the internet recklessly. Discuss the dos and don’ts with your kids. These will be cyber safety rules that must be followed at any cost.

  • To ask before installing new apps
  • Maintaining proper internet etiquette
  • Share if a stranger approaches on their social media account
  • They should also be very wary of accepting friend requests and messages from people they don’t know. Review the privacy settings of social media apps, as the default settings may reveal more information than you are comfortable with.
  • Let them know that sometimes they will come across content that is not appropriate. For example, you can say, ‘Sometimes people put horrible things on the internet. While most things are fake, some might be real. If you see anything that upsets you or makes you feel uncomfortable, you can always tell me.
2. Be mindful

Remind your child to be mindful of their actions while using social media. Today, the internet is an extension of society and comes with its own etiquette. Therefore, remind your children to be mindful of:

  • What they post
  • Buying things online
  • Hurting others
  • Downloading files or making purchases through in-app payments
  • Piracy concerns; piracy is a legal issue and needs to be taken seriously

Teach your child that just because anything can be posted on social media doesn’t mean that it should. Sharing private information can be a potential threat to privacy. For example, things that should never be shared like:

  • Password
  • Location
  • Phone number
  • Personal information
  • Content that might be considered offensive or hurts someone
3. Cyber-bullying

Today bullying goes beyond just school premises. The Internet has quickly become a breeding ground for bullying people using different means. Due to the advantage of anonymity, it is often easy for people to make fun of and abuse others. The use of memes and videos posted by anonymous accounts is common. This is a serious issue as it hampers the self-esteem and mental health of children.

Discuss the effects of cyber-bullying and ways to handle it with your children. Equip them with means to battle cyber-bullying. Let your child know that they can rely on you and confide in you if they experience cyberbullying. Remind your child that, no matter how tempting it may be, under no circumstances should they retaliate or respond to the cyberbully as it usually makes matters worse. Similarly, teach your child about how wrong cyber-bullying is and what consequences they will face if they are a part of it.

4. Be a good role model

It is imperative that you model the same behavior you expect from your children. Go online with them and observe how they interact. Also, show the right internet behavior to them. You should consider following the same rules that you have set for your children in terms of using devices and when. This will motivate them to follow these rules. It is well known why screen time limits are needed today.

You can read more on it Coping with screen time in COVID- 19

5. Supervise

Ensure that your child’s internet and social media use is always supervised. Make a family plan to discuss what apps are good and what are not to be used. Keep an eye on the apps and content being watched by your child. You can use child safety features on your device to ensure their safety. There are also apps that you can install to do the same. Remember, the idea of using such apps is to supervise and not act as surveillance. If you use streaming apps on TV like Netflix, set up profiles for all family members so your child is less likely to come across inappropriate programs.

Being cooperative and trusting your children to make the right choices will ultimately allow them to take better ownership of their online safety.

Sayee Deshpande
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