In the past, parents only had to be concerned about too much TV exposure for their kids. Now we have video games, computers, and cell phones. Many young individuals find it hard to go out without their portable media player or cell phone.
As these devices become more powerful, versatile, and affordable, it creates additional challenges for parents in terms of supervising, educating, and guiding their children.
In this article, we discuss why you should educate your child about online sexual interactions and how you can go about it.
Why You Should Educate Your Children
Here are some reasons why it's necessary for you to educate your children about online sexual interactions.
1. Sexual predators target minors
Statistics show that more than half of victims of online predators are between 12 and 15 years old. Online predators are individuals who use the internet to exploit others, typically targeting children or vulnerable individuals. Online predators often use sophisticated manipulation tactics to build trust with children. This can involve pretending to be someone the child knows, offering attention and compliments, or creating a false sense of friendship. These tactics are designed to exploit the child's vulnerabilities over time.
2. Children are naive and inexperienced
Children are inherently trusting and often assume that people they meet, even online, have good intentions. This innocence and naivety can make them more susceptible to manipulation by individuals with malicious motives.
3. Children are naturally curious
Children's natural curiosity can lead them to explore various online platforms. While this exploration is a normal part of development, it can expose them to inappropriate content or interactions if they are not guided or supervised.
4. Desire for Independence
As children grow older, they may seek more independence, especially with their online activities. Without proper guidance, they may engage in risky behaviors, such as sharing personal information or interacting with potentially harmful strangers, as a way to assert their independence.
5. Peer Pressure and Influence
Children are influenced by their peers, both online and offline. Peer pressure to engage in certain online activities can lead children to make potentially harmful decisions without fully understanding the consequences.
6. Unrestricted Access
Lack of parental controls on digital devices or supervision means that children may have unrestricted access to the internet. This lack of oversight can expose them to a wide range of online content, including interactions with strangers. This is why parents restrict screen time on their kids’ devices.
7. Inappropriate Content and Grooming
Your child could be exposed to inappropriate content, such as explicit messages or images, while navigating the internet. Online predators typically use a strategy called grooming, a process where they gradually build trust and an emotional connection with the child, before introducing more inappropriate or harmful interactions.
How You Can Protect Your Child
Here’s how you can teach your children to protect themselves especially when they’re alone.
1. Provide an alternative means of entertainment
While having knowledge of computers and related technologies is important, even essential, for many children, you should observe if your kids are becoming excessively focused on computers, video games, and the internet. In such cases, it might be beneficial to broaden their interests. Consider introducing them to an engaging craft or a musical instrument — something wholesome that is both different and stimulating. The less time your kids spend on their phone, the lower their chances of being exposed to sexual with adults online.
2. Explain the dangers
Kids can pick up on technology and the internet pretty fast, but because they're still learning and haven't had much experience, they can be a bit too trusting. Make sure to explain the dangers they might face and teach them how to steer clear of trouble. Also, talk to your kids about sexting. It may be an uncomfortable topic but it’s important that your children are not ignorant of tactics that online sexual predators employ. Choose an appropriate time and a setting that allows your kid to freely express themselves.
3. Set appropriate limits on your child’s use of technology
If your child tends to spend prolonged hours isolated while watching TV, browsing the Internet, or playing computer games, consider implementing periods and areas in the home designated as technology-free. Consistently enforcing reasonable rules provides a structured family environment and supports the development of good manners, consideration for others, and social skills in children.
But it is often not just enough to tell them what to do. When you’ve set these rules, endeaver to stick to them yourself. The values you instill and the example you provide will play significant roles in safeguarding your children.
4. Keep up with technology
For parents whose children have internet access, it's important to acquire a basic knowledge of how the internet operates and be aware of your child's activities when they use instant messaging apps, browse the internet, and more.
5. Leverage parental controls
Certain internet service providers and software programs provide parental controls which act like safety railings to block unwanted pop-ups and restrict access to harmful sites. Some can even help in preventing kids from sharing personal information like their name or address. It's important to note, though, that these parental controls aren't foolproof. Older, more computer-savvy children may figure out ways to bypass them.
6. Keep an open line of communication
A study showed that when faced with potentially harmful online sexual situations, young people were twice as likely to turn to online tools like blocking or reporting, rather than seeking help offline from a parent or caregiver. This means that parents may be unaware of the harmful situations their child might be facing which can be dangerous, as it may allow issues to persist without parental intervention.
To prevent this, create an open and non-judgmental space for your child to share their online experiences. Build a trusting relationship with your child so they feel comfortable discussing their online experiences without fear of punishment.
Teaching your child about the dangers of online interactions with strangers is more than just a safety precaution; it helps your child develop discernment - a quality that will help them in both their online and offline interactions.
At The Mission Haven, our commitment is to assist parents in safeguarding their children. Explore our blog posts for valuable resources on online safety and effective ways to educate your child. Together, we can create a secure online environment for your child.