In the past 20 years, the world has changed so fast that it is hard to keep up with all the new technology available today. In many households, the traditional landline phone has been replaced by a mobile phone in the hand of each member of the family – adults and children alike. Towards the end of the 90s, the internet was still very new in South Africa, and social media was an unknown term. With the use of the internet, the world has become smaller, privacy has become a more valued concept and children have developed advanced technological skills from as young as two or three years old.
With the technological advancement, so many dangers have crept into many households without parents knowing it. It is therefore very important that we, as parents, are aware of the dangers of the internet to safeguard our children.
As parents and guardians, it is crucial that we protect our children from all dangers, including those that live online. Secure Rite has put together 10 online dangers our children face on the internet:
Social media and online games are the playgrounds for many young children and teenagers today. Sadly, this is where most cyberbullying takes place. According to Internetsafety101.org, one-third of teens who take part in social media have experienced cyberbullying, and 90 percent have ignored bullying they’ve witnessed. Cyberbullying can have a devastating effect on a child’s psychological state of mind and confidence. Many teen suicides have been attributed to bullying.
2. Cyber predators
Sexual predators often lurk on popular social media and game sites to connect with and groom young children. In some cases, cyber predators entice children into life-threatening personal encounters as they gain children’s trust online.
3. Posting private information
A child may post personal information online which can, in fact, put the whole family at risk. Children do not always understand what constitutes ‘personal information’ nor do they fully appreciate the danger in sharing personal information with strangers.
4. Phishing emails
The latest Facebook phishing scams trick vulnerable children and teens into thinking they’re verifying their Facebook information while they are actually (unknowingly) giving away personal data. The scam works when a user clicks on what looks like a link from a friend in a tweet or post. That link takes them to a fake Facebook page where they can log in. They are then asked to verify a bunch of information — that’s where the worst damage can occur. The user is asked to enter credit card information, down to the security code.
6. Chat rooms
Many children make virtual friends in chat rooms, thinking that they may be chatting to their agemates, but in fact, they may be chatting to cyber criminals or predators with malicious intent.
7. Inappropriate content
Pop-ups with adult content can easily come up on a child’s computer or phone screen when browsing the internet, introducing him/her to content he/she may find difficult to process psychologically.
8. Online grooming
Cyber predators lurking on different sites on the internet may befriend a child, build trust over time and ultimately lure our children into sending images or even meeting in person.
9. Reputational risk
Teenagers may not realise that anything they post online about themselves may almost be impossible to remove later in life and this may affect their reputation when applying for a job in the future. If it’s online, it is forever.
10. Overuse / Addiction
Internet addiction among children is a growing concern. They can be anyone in an online chat room, or play thrilling and challenging games against other players from all corners of the globe. With the click of a mouse, they can enter a different world where the problems they perceive in their real lives are no longer present, and all the things one wishes he or she could be, do, or experience are possible.
Like addiction to drugs and alcohol, the internet offers children and adolescents a way to escape painful feelings or troubling situations. They sacrifice needed hours of sleep to spend time online and withdraw from family and friends to escape into a comfortable online world that they have created and shaped.
The Internet can pose dangers to children. It can also open doors of wonder for them that previous generations could not even have dreamed of. Help make sure that your children experience the joys of an online world, not its hazards.
As parents, we need to ask ourselves: do we really understand the dangers that our children are exposed to while online? More so, do we know which social media sites and applications our children use daily?
The solution is really to be actively involved in technology and research online. Parents who make everything their business are more difficult to divert. By keeping up to date and informed, we are in a better position to safeguard our children online. While tools like ‘Cybersecurity software’ can provide some form of protection, our best safety precaution is to encourage a safe and open communication culture with our children.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of an online crime or an online attack, please share your story with us.