Everyone knows that the internet can be dangerous. Throughout the early millennium, children were warned about the potential hazards of web use all the time, but a decade later the internet would be much more accessible. Handheld devices alone give children complete access to the internet nearly 24/7. The possible benefits of these devices are numerous, but with their growing availability and parents becoming more tech-savvy, it is possible that familiarity with the internet lures parents into a false sense of security and that the “internet safety talk” in recent years, has been neglected or abandoned.
The problem with this is that while our level of comfort with the internet has changed, the risks have not. According to recent studies, about 13% of children have received unwanted sexual solicitations via web and the vast majority of predators who succeeded in luring children to meet privately in 2012 had admitted to the child that they were grown men seeking sexual contact. Adults are able to openly seek out children to molest, often using the promise of gifts, alcohol, money, or simply the kind of attention that the child craves, be it romantic attention or otherwise.
This is why it is so important to revive the internet safety talk, and our book, Helping Children Affected By Abuse: A Parent’s and Teacher’s Handbook for Increasing Awareness has some tips to start that talk.
- As always, frank and honest communication is key. Explain why you are interested in your child’s online activity.
- Do not let their desire for privacy overtake their need for parental supervision
- Go with your child if he or she wants to arrange to meet someone they met online
- Explain to your child that if there is a need for secrecy, the situation is not safe
- If you and your child decide to meet face to face with someone from online, be sure to meet in a public place
These are only a few of the suggestions that can be found in Chapter 9, “Child Safety on the Internet,” of our book. Use these tips to start a dialogue with children and keep yourself alert to the risks of internet use.