As our use of the internet grows and becomes a much bigger part of everyday life, unfortunately, online crimes also become more of a danger. Criminals evolve much like everything else. They find new ways to target people and new opportunities to exploit and harm others. The study of criminology on courses such as an online masters in criminal justice is focused on understanding why criminals do what they do. As parents, we may not have the skills gained from an online CJ degree, so it’s important that we find ways to protect our children and keep them safe when they are using the internet.
Understand the Dangers
The first thing you need to do is understand the dangers yourself. You might know all about choosing safe passwords, protecting your details, and logging out of sites. But, do you know about the specific dangers that your child could be facing? Some of the risks to children online include:
- Bullying and threatening behaviour
- Extreme views
- Promotion of self-harm or eating disorders
- Encouraging the bullying of others
- Seeing or being encouraged to share violent of pornographic content
- Chatting to people hiding behind false profiles
- Stalkers and groomers
While this is terrifying for parents, it is important to be aware of the dangers.
How you speak to your child about these things will depend very much on their age, personality, and level of maturity. Only you can know what they are ready to be told. But, be as honest as you can. Make sure they are aware of threats and that they know when to be suspicious.
Looking at the internet settings on any family devices is an easy way to protect all of you. Some things you should check include:
- Privacy settings on social media apps
- Turn off location sharing
- Set parental controls and restrict access to inappropriate content
- Show your child how to report anything or anyone that makes them uncomfortable
- Check social media tagging settings
Speak to your child. Ask them what sites they go on, what they enjoy about them, and what they don’t like. Ask what their friends use. But, do this in a chatty, conversational manner so they don’t feel spied on. Talk to them about your own experiences online and encourage them to talk to you about any concerns they have.
Generally, children are much more likely to trust us and confide in us if they feel that we trust them. So, while the idea of your child using the internet unsupervised might be frightening, it’s important that you do. Let them have their own device or account on the family computer and give them some privacy. Then, don’t go out of your way to spy on or question them.
Reading articles like this, you may be tempted to try and keep your children off the internet altogether. But, this isn’t a long-term solution. As they get older, they will need to be online for school and, eventually, work, so it’s best to instead concentrate on educating and preparing them.