Just as there are beautiful, magical and knowledgeable things on the Internet, there are also equally disturbing, fake and horrible problems with Internet usage. Most children, born in the 2000s or later, have grown up with the Internet and gadgets being an intimate part of their lives. Everything they do is on the Internet like searching for information online for their homework or watching TV shows and the like on a smart TV. It is up to the parents to think about the risks and consequences of a child using the Internet and how we can combat that. We need to be aware of it and we need dialogue that this article hopes to start. Let’s talk a little bit about the dark side of the Internet for our kids and understand how we can combat it.
One of the biggest challenges of Internet is that people have a screen in front of them which makes them think they can do anything. From that impulse starts all sorts of trolling, bullying, calling mean things to innocent kids online. And then the worst part is that this behavior is normalized to the point that children think it is okay. They do one of the two things – try and ignore it or take steps by themselves that don’t make things better. To adults who know better, words won’t hit but to a mind still taking the world in, hurtful words and actions from anonymous people make an imprint that is there forever.
Kaspersky found through an online survey in 2018 that 60% of children, being online, have faced cyberbullies before. Enough.org says that almost 47% of all young people, children and teens included, have been through attacks by cyber bullies and mostly ignored them. The problem that arises here is that even though they ignore it, it could take a toll on them if they are constantly going through it.
Privacy Problems of Internet Games
One of the modes where attackers target children is through online games. While traditionally, gaming is the source of establishing sportsmanship, leadership, strategy skills, the online multiplayer gaming world holds many issues. One of the primary problems for internet safety for kids in these online games is how people can obtain personal information. Hackers as well as ill-intentioned adults could ask your children about personal details. While your child wouldn’t comprehend the consequence, through both social media and gaming platforms, hackers can get enough information to create an entirely different account under your child’s name. While that might not seem like such a harmful thing, these same fake accounts can be used for baiting other adults or gullible people.
Online Grooming and Personal Attacks During Games
Online grooming is the scenario where anyone on the Internet pretends to be younger than they are. Because they are hidden by a screen, ill-intentioned adults pretend to be younger to form a bond with children. Let’s say there’s a child named M. M loves playing Fortnite or PUBG. After some time of avid use, M gets a request from DarkPrince43 (an unknown online predator). They don’t think that it would be of any harm. Slowly, M and DarkPrince43 go on to secure so many points together. During the games, they start talking and M starts talking about their family. They talk about how their parents don’t seem to understand them and DarkPrince43 slowly starts to become a confidante.
This all turns tables when M can no longer, under the persuasion of DarkPrince43, decide between right and wrong. They start to share personal information, maybe credit card numbers or account numbers or other socially important information. That is when things will get out of hand. At that point, M’s parents or guardians are not able to do anything except file a police complaint against an anonymous entity and ground M from using the Internet ever again.
I am not talking about the ones that adults receive – money from Nigerian princes or from a doctor in the UK. As adults, you know better than to trust these offers. Children don’t know these problems of Internet as we do. Imagine, they are browsing a site they like and visit every day when they come across offers especially curated for them. How could any kid who games almost day and night, not leap at the fact that they could get cheat sheets and a thousand points, or access to a special feature in their favorite game just in exchange for some private information, a password here or a number there? It is tempting and unlike adults, children would not know the consequences of giving out personal information. How would they even guess what would happen next?
Now comes the most important question – How do you prevent your children from falling for these problems of Internet usage?
Companies who make these gadgets or your operating system or your computer usually think about these things from beforehand. Therefore, never forget to switch on parental controls in all devices that your children are using. The parental controls will prevent opening distasteful sites that are not fit for children when anybody is operating the device. In addition to the parental controls, you could also put up privacy settings, password protecting any device. If possible, you could also restrict Internet access to times when you are home with your child.
Pro tip – Supervising is good as well as monitoring your child’s Internet history but don’t intensify it. If it becomes snooping, then it becomes bad.
Communication is key
The second thing that you can do is communicate with your children. Make them aware of these issues. Believe me when I tell you, that these are awkward conversations. However, they are also important to have. You have to tell them about these dangers to keep them safe. Tell them about what is personal information and what should never get out. Talk to them about the consequences of what would happen if the personal information goes out. Tell them about the dangers of trusting someone who only has a player persona. Talk them about the consequences of putting information on the Internet. The reason is that the Internet never really has a delete button. What you put out stays there forever. This is what should dictate every action we do on the Internet.
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