There are a slew of things for parents to be concerned about as our kids begin to navigate social media, online multiplayer games and the wider Internet on their own. There’s cyber bullying, hate speech and porn, to start with. But sexual predators also should be at the top of the list, having found online multiplayer games and chat apps to be a prime location for finding and grooming young victims.
Talking to our kids about online safety, setting limits on how much and what they’re able to access, and helping them navigate (and report, if necessary) inappropriate content or conversations is important. And Michael Salter, an associate criminology professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told the New York Times that parents can start by giving kids this check list of red flags that an online “friend” can’t be trusted:
They tell the child to keep the relationship secret.
They ask for a lot of personal information.
They promise favours and gifts.
They contact the child through multiple platforms and services.
They initiate intimate discussions about the child’s appearance.
They insist on meeting face to face.
You might even want to write these red flags on a sheet of paper that you post near the device your child will be using to help reinforce the ideas.
Make sure to also keep the dialogue about internet safety open and on-going. Kids who are afraid they’ll get in trouble for something they (or someone else) has said or done online are more likely to keep it to themselves. Instead, you want them to feel comfortable talking to you about anything that makes them feel uneasy so you can help mediate the situation.