Kids and Online Safety: Tough Conversations Parents Must Have to Keep Their Children Safe
We live in a time when raising children requires more effort than it did some few years back. The use of technology exposes children to myriads of content that many of them aren’t ready to consume, including teenagers. This calls for additional attention from parents and guardians to ensure that their children do not pick up the wrong information from the internet.
Access to Technology and How it Collides With Kids’ Growth
The intersection of technology and sexual education, in particular, is one of the topics parents and guardians need to take seriously. Unfortunately, many parents are not prepared or knowledgeable enough to have these conversations. Coming from a background that didn’t have to struggle with excessive exposure to the internet, many parents need some education to speak confidently with their kids.
These conversations are important because the internet is not so safe for kids anymore. Traffickers, for instance, now use online channels to recruit their victims every day. But there's a way to handle the situation; parents need to prepare the minds of their kids for such situations, and this should be done as soon as they can tell their left from their right. In an interview with Thorn, child psychology, Amelia Aburn, shares some insightful answers to help parents navigate these conversations with their children.
Why Parents Need to Have These Conversations
Amelia explains that having these conversations at the intersection of puberty and technology is crucial not just for the healthy development of your child, but also for the safety of your child online. In fact, having these conversations is no longer an option. The need for this lies in the fact that children are growing online, with averagely, much more exposure to screen time than ever before, especially over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neglecting your kids’ interactions with the virtual world is like downplaying the impact of peer pressure on their development. In a recent survey, Thorn reveals that over 40% of kids agree that it’s normal for kids their age to send nudes. This calls for serious concerns. Topics like sexting, requests for nudes, sextortion, and online grooming are taking away the innocence of kids, so parents must brace up to address them. Otherwise, the impact of lack of parental guidance on matters like these can be devastating for any child.
Key Advice for Parents
As parents begin to have these conversations with their kids, they must acknowledge that it can be stressful and overwhelming. Initiating these chats begin with diffusing shame and acknowledging that can be disturbing and upsetting. You need to learn about unsafe experiences like sextortion and online grooming, but most importantly, you need to be in the right state of mind. In other words, you need to put self-care in front.
It takes a healthy mind to have these conversations with children. It is also pretty normal for parents to experience fear and discomfort about initiating these conversations with their kids. Aside from educating yourself, it would help if you were mindful of the time and frame of mind of your kids as you initiate these conversations. Getting the best response from them depends on how they receive your inquiries and advice, so you want to be sure that they are willing to chat with you.
Finally, you must be able to manage your expectations as you speak with your kids. The responses you will get from an elementary schooler will most likely be different from that of a high school student. Recognize the sexual and social development stage that your child is currently in. This, in addition to their personality, temperament, intellectual capacity, emotional maturity, and natural tendencies, can influence the response you get. Normally, most children will feel embarrassed having such conversations with their parents.
When faced with such a challenge, it is helpful to keep in mind that the essence of it all is for your child's long-term development. Besides, the results you seek will likely manifest over the course of several discussions on the topic. Being patient with them is key. The truth is, many children are going through stuff that they are not proud of or confident enough to share with their parents.
Creating an atmosphere of love makes it easy for them to unburden their minds without fear of getting judged. Trust the process and give it time, but do not give up having these conversations with your children. Their development depends on it. Technology is here to stay, but embracing it requires wisdom.
According to a 2018 study, the number of young people in the US between 13 and 17 years using a smartphone has reached 89%. More young people are joining social media platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and Youtube. Parents, guardians, and caregivers must ensure that this exposure does not affect their children negatively.