Think you have your child’s Internet usage under control? It’s a mistake many parents make these days, and it’s no surprise. After all, most of us grew up without even knowing what a computer was, and now our children have the ability to talk to whomever they wish whenever they wish, no matter where they are in the world, and they can do so at the touch of a button.
This capability is awesome in its implications and certainly has its benefits, but if misused, can put your child’s safety and well being at risk.
Rethinking whether you truly know who your kids are talking to online? Here are some warning signs that you may not know as much as you think you do about your child’s online activities:
### Your child has an account on a social media site
Having an account on a social media site like Facebook or Twitter greatly increases the chance that your child is having conversations with people you don’t know. As of this moment, there are 800 million active users on Facebook, and the average user has 130 friends. A teenager on a social media site, however, has an average of 450 friends (Social Times, 2011). Even if your kid only has half as many “friends” as the average teenager, that’s 225 people who have instant access to your child’s undivided attention. Is it likely that you know and trust all 225 of them? Doubtful.
Having an account on a social media site also puts your child at a greater risk of cyberbullying. Think you would know if something like this were happening to your child? Not necessarily. A whopping 40% of teenagers have been bullied online, but only 10% of them tell their parents (National Crime Prevention Center, 2010).
### Your child has a Smartphone
If your child has a Smartphone, then there’s a greater chance that he or she is talking to people outside of his family and peer group. Why? Because these phones grant your child immediate access to the Internet where there’s plenty of opportunity for them to interact with strangers. Smartphones are a lot easier to conceal than laptops or PCs as well, so there’s plenty of opportunity for your youngster to have these conversations in private.
Smartphones also make your child more vulnerable to sexting—a trend in which teenagers send racy texts, images, or videos to one another. Unfortunately, sexting is on the rise; 15% of 11-16 year-olds have received “sexual messages or images” (EU Kids Online, 2011).
### Your child plays online games
Video games have come a long way since we were kids, so if you think the games your kid is playing online are as harmless as Pac-Man, think again. Even the games that seem safe enough (i.e. those that aren’t overtly violent) sometimes present ways for your child to get themselves into trouble. How? Through opportunities to chat with other players, who may very well be complete strangers up to no good.
So how do you stay informed about your child’s online activities without constantly looking over his shoulder? Easy. Simply download a free software program designed to keep you informed and most importantly, to keep your child safe online. Programs like Qustodio will provide you with detailed reports regarding your child’s interactions online, alert you instantly to any suspicious behavior, and allow you to block sites that you decide are inappropriate or potentially harmful. Find out more about how to begin protecting your child online today by visiting www.qustodio.com.