As parents, we’re always concerned with our children’s safety. From the moment they take their first breath, we’re on the lookout for potential dangers. And when they get their first smartphones, the normal everyday dangers increase dramatically.
Although it can be helpful, expanding technology use with kids isn’t necessarily a good thing. The following are a few things to look out for when your kids are online.
Unfortunately, people aren’t always who they say they are. This is especially true online. Predatory adults often prey on young kids by pretending they’re someone they’re not. This could lead to kidnapping, sexual assault or worse.
And the worst part about this predatory behavior is that kids may hide these relationships from their parents. Imagine a pre-teen girl who isn’t allowed to date. She’s suddenly contacted by what she thinks is a cute teenage boy, and they plan to meet. She won’t tell her parents because they wouldn’t let her go, so she makes up a lie to get out of the house. Upon meeting this stranger, she quickly realizes the danger she’s in, but it’s too late.
If your kids spend unsupervised time online, there are apps you can use to monitor and limit their use. Let them know they’re being tracked, so it’s not a complete invasion of privacy. You may not love the idea of tracking their online behavior, but it’s certainly better than the alternative.
Cyberbullying is a problem that affects many kids today, and it extends far beyond social media. If your child is being bullied online, there’s a good chance the bully is continuing to harass your child at school.
Look for signs that your child is being cyberbullied. These signs may include:
- Social isolation
- Canceling online accounts suddenly
- A sudden and obvious change to technology use
If your child is being bullied online, find evidence and take screenshots. You can send a complaint to the site where the bullying is taking place, and the bully’s account will likely get suspended or banned. If you notice any threats of physical violence, contact the police immediately. You never know whether someone will make good on their word, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Studies have shown that when kids spend a lot of time on social media, they are more likely to be depressed. There are many theories as to why this is the case. It may be because they are replacing human interaction with technology. It may also be that our kids are comparing their real lives with what they see on social media. Most people only put highlights on their social channels, so it’s easy to mistakenly think that someone else’s life is perfect. This depression can ultimately lead children to indulge in dangerous behaviors, like addiction or self-harm so play an active role in explaining to them that what they see on social media isn’t exactly real.
Technology has its obvious benefits, but there are also some serious drawbacks. Think long and hard before you hand over a smartphone to your child. Regardless of age, you’ll want to ask yourself whether they are mature enough to handle the responsibility. And when they do have smartphones, we must do everything in our power to keep them safe.