There has been so much alarm about the safety of kids online so much so that one is tempted to believe every story that pops up on the internet about kids. Agreed! There are pedophiles and cyberbullies. However, they do not exist in every page on the internet. There is still some good for kids online and this has prompted some experts to champion the argument against ‘techno-panic mindset’. To adequately protect these kids, one needs to be acquainted with the facts on kids’ safety.
Myth: Social media make kids become cyber bullies
Truth: There are several reasons why a kid might be involved in cyber bullying. Social media are just one of those ways and maybe a catalyst for the dirty work.
The fact is that kids who engage in this kind of behavior are either bullies in person, or have an underdeveloped sense of empathy. They could be having some crisis at home, in school or socially. These are some of the things that could have triggered their actions. Although, this is no excuse for their actions, however, knowing these things could help teachers, parents and guardians to determine the symptoms early enough and nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand.
Myth: Instructing kids not to talk to strangers is the best way to ensure their safety online
Truth: Teaching kids how to recognize predatory behavior will help them to ward off bad advances
This ‘tech’ age has made it possible for kids as young as 8 to interact online. Hence, they need to know and recognize the line between appropriate and inappropriate conversation. Kids are often lured by their friends into sexual conversations. They need to know when to say NO and end a conversation. Go beyond telling them about the danger in interacting with strangers to telling about statements or questions that are inappropriate. For instance, “Are you male or female?”, “where do you live?”, “what are you wearing?”, “let us have a private conversation”. Teach kids to avoid thrills online. Chat rooms are easy avenues for sexual conversations and explicit materials.
Myth: Social Media alienate kids
Truth: Most kids believe that social media strengthen their relationships
Kids want to have fun and socialize normally and the internet has provided a better platform for them to do that. According to Pew Research Internet Project, majority of kids socialize normally online. The following statistics is testament to this.
• About 57% of teens make new friends online
• About 84% of boys who pay networked games online feel more connected to the friends whom they play with
• 68% of teenage social media users have gotten support during challenging times from their online friends
Also, there are kids who have fought cyber bullying and advocated for other good causes using the internet. These are the ones that keep quashing these myths and setting better perceptions about online presence for kids and teens
Myth: It is dangerous to post pictures of your kids online
Truth: If you activate your privacy setting, don’t ID your kids and limit your audience, it is pretty safe.
Although posting things online could pose some dangers, but if necessary precautions are taken, it is quite safe.
• Use privacy settings: the privacy setting should be set in such a way that only those who are very close to you can view what you have posted.
• Limit your audience: Share your posts with close friends and family. Pictures sharing sites such as Flickr and Picasa can be used. These sites require log-in to view pictures.
• Do not rush your kids into social media: try to keep your children who are under 13 off social media. If you intend to upload photos of them, please do not tag them; so that the picture will not be traced back to them
Myth: Parental controls are the best way to monitor kids online.
Truth: Focusing on only one internet safety method could deceive you
Focusing on one method of safety such as parental control only, could defeat your resolve to raise digitally responsible children. Parental controls can be defeated by determined and innovative kids. Once there are too many impediments to their search results, they know that there are controls and they look for creative ways to defeat it without your knowledge. Therefore, other methods such as constant discussion about responsible and respectable online behavior will go a long way to help your kids manage their pages and profiles responsibly.