Growing up online has a lot of advantages, and so also some perils as more people continue to use the Internet.
As the boundary between online and offline fades, children who regularly use the Internet are faced with challenges that most often times, parents do not know about. One common problem children face online is online violence.
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” arrow=”yes”]Teach him to be careful when going to meet someone for the first time if he has only met them on the Internet. We strongly recommend that he shouldn’t go alone. Instead, ask an adult he knows well and trust to come with him and arrange to meet in a public place.[/quote]A recent report by United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) shows that eight out of 10 young adults believe young people are in danger of being sexually abused or taken advantage of online, and more than five out of 10 think friends participate in risky behaviours while using the Internet.
Is violence against children inevitable? What can parents do to support them?
First, it is good to know that violence against children is not inevitable. Parents can really do something to help out. Instructing and guiding your child does not just end on his dealings with those he meets in the physical reality. It also includes his dealings with his online acquaintances.
UNICEF has outlined what parents need to teach their children in order to help protect them from online violence.
- Don’t keep your fears to yourself. Tell your child and always remind him not to keep his fears to herself. If he is worried about his safety or something that has happened to him online, he should urgently speak to you or an adult he trust.
- Respect what other people are saying on social media. That he should do, even if he does not agree with them.
- You have the right to privacy – and so do others. Teach your child to know that it is not okay to log into other people’s accounts or to use their phones or profiles without their permission.
- Don’t spread rumours or post/share hurtful or embarrassing stories or photos. What may seem like a harmless joke to one person can be deeply hurtful to others. We all have the right to dignity and to be treated with respect.
- Think twice before you click ‘send’ – especially if you are upset or angry. Let your child know that once he shares a photo or a video, it is hard to control what happens to it and who sees it. Taking it down is nearly impossible.
- Report anything you see on social media that made you upset or hurt you. On many social media platforms, he can report a specific post or photo if it is against the community standards of the social media platform. Most social media platforms let you “block” a person so that you don’t see their content and they cannot contact you or send you messages.
- You can change the privacy settings on your social media platforms to help you control who sees your information, photos and videos. Teach your child to think carefully what he shares and with whom. It may seem obvious, but let him know that he should not share personal information like his address, phone number or bank details. If his privacy settings are not secure anyone can see this information.
- You shouldn’t feel pressured to accept random friend requests. Making new friends is great but before you accept a person you should have a look at their profile – try to see who they are. Does he have friends in common? Are you from the same town? He shouldn’t feel pressured to accept random friend requests. Check privacy settings so that this person does not see any information that he does not want them to see. Remember that sometimes people pretend to be someone they are not and it’s hard to know if they are telling the truth about who they are.
- Be careful about any job offers that you receive online. Try to find out; has he applied for a job or contacted anyone for a job? If yes, this could be a scam and he needs to be very careful. Do some research about the company or business. Teach him to be careful when going to meet someone for the first time if he has only met them on the Internet. We strongly recommend that he shouldn’t go alone. Instead, ask an adult he knows well and trust to come with him and arrange to meet in a public place.
- If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Teach the child to talk to you or someone he trusts and get their advice on what to do when his instincts has doubt for anything online.
It is also important to know that ending online violence is everybody’s business, as such this knowledge should be shared among all who we know that use the internet, both young and old.