THE internet is a vast and often unpredictable space for children to navigate. While it offers endless opportunities for learning, exploration and socialisation, it also exposes them to numerous dangers, such as predators who prey on innocent and vulnerable children. We urge parents to be vigilant and to monitor their children’s online activities to ensure that they are safe from these potential threats.
One of the first and crucial things parents can do to protect their children is to establish open communication and trust with them. Children should feel comfortable talking to their parents about any online experiences that make them uncomfortable or uneasy. Establishing such dialogue not only enhances a sense of security and openness between parent and child, but it also provides an opportunity to impart some critical knowledge and learning towards safer online practices.
Parents must also familiarise themselves with the latest technologies that their children use. This includes popular chat apps, gaming platforms and online forums. Familiarising themselves with these platforms can enable parents to detect suspicious activities quickly.
Appropriate parental controls on all devices children use must also be set up. This must include setting up age-appropriate settings on all social media profiles and mobile phones. These controls should include privacy filters, time restrictions on device usage, and disabling the video chat feature on apps used by children.
Parents can also use internet filtering software to keep their children safe. This software filters any harmful or explicit content from the internet, ensuring that children only access age-appropriate content. This software also offers alerts that notify parents when their children attempt to access restricted websites.
Parents should also become familiar with the warning signs of children being groomed by potential online predators. These warning signs can include sudden changes in behaviour or mood, such as becoming secretive, withdrawn, or irritable towards family and friends. They might also appear nervous, anxious or obsessive about their online activities, or their devices when it is time to turn them off.
Another possible indicator that a predator could be targeting a child is a sudden influx of messages or friend requests from unknown individuals. Parents should encourage their children to only interact with individuals that they have known personally or through a trusted source and should always disregard messages from unknown individuals.
Moreover, parents can establish rules around the child’s internet use. This includes time limits on internet usage, not sharing passwords with friends, or disclosing their location to anyone online. Parents should also ensure their children are aware of the consequences of sharing personal information, like home addresses, phone numbers or ID numbers, with strangers on the internet.
Parents need to regularly review their children’s internet history and check their social media profiles to ensure that their online activities are safe. It is their responsibility to scrutinise their children’s online activity, talk to them regarding concerns and ensure their children know they are available to discuss any internet issues with them.
It takes a concerted effort from both parents and children to ensure they are safe from online predators. While children must be taught about the potential dangers and risks of navigating the internet, it is the responsibility of parents to monitor their online activities closely.