Kids and Online Safety

Texting, sharing photos and instant messaging is how kids socialize today. But many of them use these tools to threaten, gang up on and cyberbully other kids.

According to new survey findings from the University of Phoenix:

Three in four US adults (76%) are concerned for the online safety of children under the age of 18.
Among parents, mothers are more likely than fathers to be concerned (82% vs.71%).

Specifically, large majorities of US adults are concerned with several factors of online safety, including strangers/predators talking to them (83%) and sharing sensitive material (80%).

Non parents are more likely than parents to be worried about a child being tricked into spending money (74% vs. 60%) and cyberbullying (77% vs. 71).

Social media (e.g., Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram) is the platform type that causes the most concern in 2 in 3 (67%) US adults.

Roughly 6 in 10 parents of children under 18 say educating their children about online safety (60%) and/or monitoring their activities online (56%) would be steps they could take to protect their children.

So, what can we do?  Below are a few tips from Dr. Pam Roggeman, University of Phoenix College of Education Dean, on how to get involved with children’s online profiles and ways for parents to discuss with their children how to better prevent bullying through security measures.

Be empathetic to their situation. Children are often afraid or embarrassed to talk about bullying with their parents. Connect with them by telling them of your own similar situations and offer to listen to their issues. Don’t approach them right away with solutions, as this may make them hesitant to share their struggles with you in the future.

Teach them how to react. Many children may not know how to respond to a bully. Tell them to save evidence and reach out for help. Retaliating or responding could cause a bigger issue. If they feel in danger, they need to know who and when to call for help. They should also speak out if someone they know is a victim of cyberbullying.

Protect their accounts. Many social media sites allow users to block or report people. This is not being a coward and can help stop future attacks. Make sure your children have strong passwords and don’t share them and close and lock devices and accounts when not in use, as this can lead to other forms of bullying like identity theft.

Perform a friends list audit. Sit down with your children to do an audit of their friends lists on social media. If a peer is engaging in bullying, encourage them to remove him/her. Ask them to keep their friends lists to people they truly know and talk to. Children may feel obligated to add everyone they know to their social sites, but this could cause bullying and security issues.

Serve as an example. Refrain from posting negative comments on your social channels and limit your connections to only people you know. Your children are more likely to make a change if you lead as an example.

Dr. Roggeman says that even by following these tips, a vigilant eye is necessary when it comes to monitoring the online activity of any child. She says, “be sure to ask questions and keep up on current trends as well as popular platforms and how children are using them. Keep an open dialogue with your child and let them know they can come to you if they sense a problem or unusual online activity.”

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