We teach our children not to talk to strangers, but have we prepared them for the online world? It’s no secret that children as young as nine-years old are using platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Although social media may appear to be harmless, there are significant dangers when children are using these social networking sites and apps.
There are many reasons why parents and role models should be discussing these dangers with children. At a young age, these individuals may not understand how to effectively filter through friend requests, leaving them at risk. Although it can be challenging to understand, many of these ‘friends’ are predators, searching for vulnerable victims.
4 Key Dangers to Discuss with Children
Whether you are a parent, teacher, or friend, children need to understand the potential dangers that are associated with social media. It’s important to educate these young individuals and set certain guidelines so that they do not place themselves at risk. Please consider the following when discussing the use of social media with children.
- Stranger = Potential Danger – It’s important to discuss strangers, both in the real world and online. If a person approached your child outside of their school, they would know not to talk to them because they are a stranger. When it comes to the online world, it can be harder for children to judge potential predators. Even if your child isn’t using Facebook or other popular sites, they may be using applications for children – which have a social aspect to them. For those who are targeting children, they will also use these apps. Know what your child is using in terms of apps and let them know that not everyone online is who they appear to be.
- Limit Shared Information – Although it’s great for your child to be social and eager to share their personality, sharing too much information can be dangerous. Stress the importance of not revealing information about their whereabouts, where they attend school, or anything that would compromise their safety. If someone has bad intentions, this type of information could allow them to take further action.
- Don’t Send Photographs – Unless your child is 150 percent sure that they’re talking to a true friend of theirs, children should not be sending photographs. Without knowing it, your child could be sending hidden information. For those who know what to look for, EXIF data can help them track down the location where the photo was taken. Also, your child may not understand the ramifications of sending personal pictures through the Internet. If you’re concerned, look into parental controls, helping you regulate and restrict photos.
- Cyberbullying – Sometimes, it’s hard to think of our own children as someone that would be hurting someone else. Not always intention, children can be quite cruel online – especially when caving to peer pressure. Cyberbullying is a whole new realm that is extremely damaging to a child’s self-esteem and self-worth. Speak to your child about bullying, especially if you have suspensions that they may be involved. Remind them that teasing and gossiping about others is not fair and not right. Ask them, how would you feel if someone was treating you that way? On the other hand, if you think that your child is being bullied, communicate with them. So many kids feel alone and frustrated, but that does not need to be the case. Get involved!