The Importance of Teaching Kids Online Safety

November 02, 2021 End Slavery Now Spotlight 

Many children are raised to know what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate for the setting they’re in because their parents correct them over time but the same rules don’t always apply when online. 

Have you had a conversation with the children in your life about behaviors that are appropriate online? How about what behaviors towards them are appropriate?

A 2018 Pew Research Center report found that 95% of teens have access to a smartphone and 45% of teens say they are online almost constantly.

While parents work to raise children in this digital age, they have a lot to be concerned about: online bullying or harassment, social development, mental stimulation, and privacy and safety.

There are basic online safety tips that are commonly shared: 

  • Don’t post, share, or send anything (including images) you wouldn’t want your parents or teachers to see
  • Don’t share passwords or social security numbers
  • Don’t meet up with anyone you met online
  • Check your privacy settings

For your child, the internet can be a fun place to connect with friends, learn, watch videos, meet new people, and play games. Predators know this and stalk chat rooms and social media to connect with the children and try to lure them into inappropriate or dangerous behaviors. According to the 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report by the Human Trafficking Institute, found that 59% of online victim recruitment in active sex trafficking cases happened on Facebook. 

Did you know Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat were the most frequently cited social media platforms for recruiting child victims?

Digital safety is important for everyone to think about regularly. There are tons of innocuous bits of information that, when combined, could pose a threat to the safety of your family.

  • Usernames: Even something as mundane as the username you or your child choose can be important in monitoring your child’s safety. Many usernames include some type of personal information like a first name, last name, or birthday. Hackers can sometimes use this information to guess security questions and reset an account password.
  • Bios: Try to refrain from adding ages, locations, or schools to your child’s bio for similar reasons. It’s also usually a good idea to unlink online accounts from other social media accounts associated with your child. 
  • Location sharing: Whether that means sharing your location in a post or adding your hometown to your bio, this can be dangerous information for predators to have. Predators will use any information they can find to reach out to children and start grooming them. 

Learn the basic stages of grooming

While it is important for your child to know what behaviors are appropriate for them online, it is equally important to discuss inappropriate behavior directed towards your child. While one or two of these may not mean the person on the other end of the keyboard is dangerous, it’s important to teach your children some indicators of inappropriate behavior online. 

  • Does this person frequently want to talk to you privately? Or want to connect with you on another app or through texting?
  • Has this person mentioned things that you haven’t told them? It could be a sign they are digitally stalking your other accounts to further the relationship.
  • Are they asking lots of personal questions relating to the digital security steps you’ve already taken? Like asking where you live or go to school or what your birthday is?
  • Do they constantly agree with you or try and make you feel special? Do they offer to send you gifts or money? Do they try to tell you your friends or family doesn’t understand you the way they do?
  • Do they ask you to send them photos of yourself? Explicit photos? Do they send you sexually explicit photos or make comments that make you feel uncomfortable?
  • Do they ask you to lie about your online relationship? Do they tell you to not tell your parents or other adults about them?

Read Online Sense’s article: 20 Early signs to recognize online predators 

Having open conversations and inviting honesty into discussions about your child’s online habits and activities will keep your child smarter and safer. When they have questions or experience some discomfort, they should feel comfortable going to their parents or guardians. 

Visit ICE’s Project iGuardian website to learn other ways to keep your child safe from online predators 

Starting these conversations can sometimes be difficult, there are a few tips to help start connecting with your children about their internet usage. There are age-appropriate guides that you can search to better fit your family’s structure!

Topics: Awareness

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