Keeping Your Child Safe in an Increasingly Digital World
America is a big country. Very big. One of the biggest in the… You get it.
As such, we are a country rich in a great many resources. It wouldn’t exactly be reinventing the wheel to reference the platitude that “Children are our most precious resource.”
It’s natural for the world to go through changes from generation to generation. However, society has undergone a seismic shift seemingly overnight. Much of this can be attributed to the rapid advancement of digital technology.
Many Millennials have gone from a life without the internet; to ten-minute dial-up connections for spotty America Online service (when no one was using the phone and the wind wasn’t blowing too hard); to having the cumulative knowledge of the entire human race immediately at their fingertips, 24/7. As astronomical as this is to people over the age of 23; children have never known anything different.
That certainly has its advantages. Young people will pick things up faster than their predecessors. They will be the driving force behind innovations that will take humanity to new heights.
But, it also comes with some disadvantages. The world is more connected than it has ever been, and with that connection comes a hitherto undreamt-of level of access to one another. While this may be alarming enough for adults to protect themselves where possible; again, a child has never known anything different.
Know Who Your Kids Are Talking to Online
Kids naturally tend to expect people to be honest. The internet is filled with those who would take advantage of that. The same way you would run a background check on a new nanny with a service like Spokeo; so too should you monitor the people your kids interact with online. Age restrictions on social media accounts and blocking inappropriate websites and chatrooms will go a long way in deterring potentially dangerous interactions.
Of course, this will get harder as your children get older and start craving more independence. The idea is to try to instill in them a healthy skepticism without making them totally cynical. Teach them that “don’t talk to strangers” can be as important online as it is off.
Lookout for Cyber-Bullying
Bullying sucks. There’re no two ways about it. Unfortunately, it is also a part of life. Try as we might to upend it, it’s unlikely to ever truly be stomped out. At least as kids, we had some respite from our tormentors. With the advent of Cyber-bullying, kids are no longer safe even at home. In fact, the effectively unsupervised cruelty is intensified if anything.
What Can You Do? Encourage your kids to be open with you. There is a stigma to cyber-bullying because the damage is rarely physical in nature. Reassure them that pain is pain and that they don’t deserve to be treated that way. Nobully.com is a great resource as well. As much as it pains you, it might be harder for your child to talk to you than it would be to talk to a stranger on a helpline.
While having a child that is being bullied is a heartbreaking experience; in some regards, having a child who is the cyber-bully themselves can be worse. Make it clear to your child that that kind of behavior is unacceptable. Help them to understand that lives could literally be at stake.
Digital technology is the future. If we are being honest with ourselves, it’s really the present. However, there is a whole world happening outside of all the glowing screens. It would be foolish to discourage the use of technology in general. But, as with literally everything else on the planet, all things in moderation.
We may not have the power to protect our children from all the dangers they will face in the modern world, but with a little vigilance, we might be able to spare them some pain.