Technology is a double-edged sword for parents. The internet and smart devices can be great learning tools. Yet, online bullying and the presence of various online predators make these tools potentially dangerous and damaging to young minds.
What we know:
- There are links between excessive internet and social media use and lower self-esteem in children. Cyberbullying is often more dangerous than traditional forms of bullying.
- Children between the ages of 12 and 15 are especially susceptible to being groomed or manipulated by adults they meet online.
- Young adults can be contacted by drug dealers online and have access to dangerous substances that can lead to addiction issues.
However, parents can minimize these risks and set standards for responsible online activity. Below are essential tech safety tips for parents to help them protect their children’s mental health.
Set Ground Rules
As soon as your kids start using the internet or a smartphone, teach them some basic rules for online safety. Generally, this should include the following:
- Never share passwords.
- Do not enter personal information such as name and address.
- Create usernames that do not reveal their true identity.
- Do not agree to meet any strangers met online or accept any packages from them.
- Tell a parent or trusted adult if there is any suspicious behavior.
Take the Time to Understand Technology and Apps
If your child is using technology you do not understand or an app that seems ridiculous to you, take the time to understand it and how it works. What you do not know can hurt your kids. The same applies to substance use.
Know the slang and terminology. Understand how social media apps work and try them out to better understand what your child sees daily.
Understand Parental Controls and Use Them
Depending on your child’s age, automatically setting limits regarding online content is crucial. Parental controls are available on every computer and smartphone. Become knowledgeable about setting parental controls on every tech device.
Additionally, install monitoring software, allowing you to read emails and instant messages and monitor your child’s online activity from any location.
Know Who Your Kids Are Talking to Online
Social media allows anyone to talk to anyone and never know who they actually are. Chat rooms can be particularly dangerous. That’s why it is important to know which ones your kids are entering and insist on knowing who they are talking with.
There are an estimated 500,000 online predators active each day. According to the F.B.I., over 50 percent of the victims of online sexual exploitation are between the ages of 12 and 15.
Approximately four percent of children receive aggressive solicitations from adults online, including attempts to contact children in person.
Moreover, monitor all online activity. There is nothing that can replace old-fashioned parental vigilance. Consider the following tips:
- View the browser web history, or teach yourself how to do this.
- Visit all the online communities your child uses and see what information is being shared.
- Unfortunately, most teens do not report suspicious online activity because they fear losing their computer privileges. Keep lines of communication open to prevent this from happening.
- Overall, privacy comes with maturity and should only be afforded when children have demonstrated they are ready.
Online Bullying is a Real Problem
No single factor places a child at risk of being bullied online. Cyberbullying occurs over digital devices, computers, social media, chat rooms, and other electronic media.
Online bullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can also include sharing personal or private information about someone else, causing embarrassment or humiliation.
The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:
- Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
- Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
- Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
- Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
Within the United States, roughly 16% of students in grades 9-12 experienced cyberbullying. Approximately 15% of high school students were electronically bullied.
Technology Continues to Expand
Most individuals live their lives on the internet. Unfortunately, these habits develop early in life.
While it is a helpful tool for education, work, and social interaction or entertainment, overuse takes a toll on mental well-being.
While not all mental health concerns among young people are linked to technology, it is crucial to recognize the vast number of children impacted. It is essential to identify and help those children struggling with mental health and substance use issues due to cyberbullying and online predators.
The growth of technology will not stop, so parents must adapt and stay one step ahead, knowing what their children are using and seeing every day.
Empower Your Children with Knowledge that Will Last a Lifetime
It’s our job as parents to protect our children from the threats accompanying advances in technology.
Continue to make online safety a priority and help your children understand how they can make better and safer choices.
About the author – Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with substance abuse for over 20 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise, he utilized his website, Addicted.org, and community outreach as a way to spread awareness. His primary focus is threefold: education, prevention, and rehabilitation.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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