Learning to be Street Smart
While our kids’ childhoods are filled more and more with electronic devices of which most of which are connected to the internet, they could be exposed to a lot of unwelcomed attention from predators hiding behind fake identities in games chatrooms, apps, or social media. I understand that as technology advances, it is inevitable that they start using various devices at a much younger age and on a more frequent basis than our generation. When we were kids, our parents were warning us about the potential danger when playing outside the house or going on a grocery run to the corner store, and therefore taught us to avoid talking to strangers and stay alert about who could be following us home. The same now applies to how we should educate our kids about internet safety and how to be “street smart” when surfing the internet.
The ugly side of things
I have always been aware of the potential danger we are all exposed to when we have an online presence, but I became extra concerned after listening to this interview of Roo Powell, the journalist who exposed herself as a potential victim to internet predators by posing as a teenager on gaming sites and social media platforms. Roo Powell’s investigation into the ugly side of social media rings alarm bells for all concerned parents around the world. I always thought that as long as our kids don’t have an account on social media platforms they should be safe from catfishes and scammers, but apparently, these individuals can still get to our little ones through well-placed comments on innocent games like coloring apps!
Don’t be a bully
Another threat for this generation of kids is cyberbullying. The average age of children owning their personal smartphone or tablet gets younger every minute, very often thanks to the social isolation brought on by the pandemic. The social dynamics between individuals are significantly different when communicating through text messages or comments on someone else's social media posts compared to face-to-face interactions. One might feel like they are entitled to use harsh comments or cruel criticisms when hiding behind the “safety” of their screens without concern for others’ feelings. This can be very damaging to the delicate emotions of kids when they are still trying to grasp social skills in the more traditional way, let alone online!
Let’s talk about it
So, it is up to us parents to educate our little ones at a young age how to navigate the dangerous territory called the Internet! Apart from the gradual introduction of technology when they are small, it might be useful to find out as much as possible about the potential dangers they could face and then slowly teach them how to handle them one by one. An important piece of advice I came across from various sources that talk about internet safety for children is to keep an open dialogue with your kids. So that they can come to you whenever they encounter someone or some situation online that bothers them.
Stay Sparky and vigilant!