Threats the internet exposes your child to
Children’s inevitable encounter with the internet and the online world start a new chapter in their lives. We should be there for them, when they take their first steps. Let’s explore the first sites together, and identify the opportunities that may be interesting to them! Small kids may mostly be interested in children’s theme sites: music, videos, games, while older ones might turn to social media, blogs and forums.
Let’s make it clear for them that not everything is true what they see on the net: they should always fact check things from different aspects and on different sites. Make them aware of the fact that a site is not necessarily truthful just because it looks good. Fake news that sound true are called hoax (they are like urban legends): sensational news seemingly based on facts that usually lack any substance whatsoever. Let’s also draw their attention to the concept of spams: great offers, seemingly personalized mails that serve the purpose of phishing. Spam filters can effectively filter out spams, and most free email servers have effective spam filters built in. A specific type of spam is the so-called Nigerian scam, when the sender asks you for an initial payment in return for a huge profit (which you will, of course, never see).
As to downloads, tell them that in addition to exposing the device they use to threats, downloading content illegally may be a crime. They may also buy things through online stores, in which case they should pay by virtual cards available from banks, and use a service (like PayPal) that provides a guarantee.
Let’s teach our kids that people they chat with online are not always what they pretend to be. In case of any ambiguous, obscene, racist comments or hate speech, they should turn to the admins (chat rooms) or use the panic button available at certain sites (saferinternet.hu, biztonsagosinternet.hu, kek-vonal.hu). They should definitely avoid revealing any personal data (address, phone number) or sharing photos, recorded or lives videos.
Before kids establish their own profiles on social media sites, we should make certain things clear for them. Anything they upload will be stored somewhere, so they should think twice what they post. They should know that they should not share their personal data (address, phone number), because people may abuse them (phishing). They should also avoid revealing their location. They should use passwords that are hard to guess, and they should not share them with anyone, because then others may log in, comment, upload photos or videos under their names. Upon registration, they should go to privacy settings and determine who can see their data. It can be set differently for each photo and video. They can report any content they deem inappropriate to the operator of the site. And one more thing that may be obvious for us, but not for kids: our actions online incur the same responsibility as in real life. Online actions are not virtual: a chat you started online may well continue in person.
An extreme example is cyber-bullying, usually initiated by posting frivolous, erotic photos, videos or offensive comments. The hostile comments, sexual harassment, sarcasm, isolation can continue in real life, in school for example. That is a very dangerous process: kids isolated may become depressed, or even turn suicidal. In such cases, lucky is the parent whom the kid shares his or her feelings with, as they can help them. However, it is always suspicious when your kid starts avoiding certain groups of people, does not want to go to schools, or seems sad for no reason: let’s always clarify what is going on!
As to harassment, we must prepare our children for certain things. It is important that they should not panic, if they find themselves in such a situation: they should not answer the harasser, but take a photo (print screen) of their screens, so that they be able to prove the fact. Some sites have their panic buttons (kek-vonal.hu, saferinternet.hu): kids can report such threats through them, as well as ask for help. It is also important that kids talk to their parents, who can then try to resolve the situation by involving the parents of the harasser and the school. Parents must always value the trust their kids place in them, in whatever manner the harassment started, and never punish them for what has happened.
Parents and kids may get some help, if they fill in a questionnaire (PDF, 0 B) about their internet and mobile consumption patterns, as the questions raise many issues they might have not encountered before. They should read and answer the questions together.