We worry about how well our kids will perform in school examinations, in which field will they make a successful career and how we can help them get through the various obstacles life throws at them. However, while your tween or teen would share with you issues related to studies or friends, there are some things they will never want to discuss with the parents.
In today’s age where their friends sitting miles away know what they ate for lunch but you don’t (thanks to the Internet), you know your kid is constantly playing with a double-edged sword. Yes, the Internet is immensely useful for knowing what’s in the news, staying in touch with people and researching for projects, but it is also an entrance to the big, bad world out there.
Signs to watch out for:
- Your child appears unhappy, scared, silent or anxious most of the time.
- He/she does not seem to be interested in any activity that does not involve the Internet.
- Your kid logs on to the computer at a particular time every day and refuses to access the Internet with you around.
- He/she stops meeting friends like before and does not show any enthusiasm to step out of the room.
Issues that might be bothering them:
- The Internet is full of bullies. Cyber bullies identify vulnerable kids, know how to extract personal information, and then use it for their benefit. So, a major issue can be that your child has fallen prey to a bully. Worse, he/she does not know whom to approach for help. The other side of this is that your child has ended up becoming a bully himself. Either way, it is a major problem.
- Nudity is another monster dominating the Internet. If your child has been forced into sharing nude photos or has voluntarily done so and later regretted it, he/she will not be comfortable asking for your help.
- If your child has somehow been using your old but active credit card without your knowledge to make purchases online, they will fear telling you after imagining the consequences.
- Your child is addicted to a particular game and has ended up giving in to unreasonable and scary demands by the game makers and managers (like in Blue Whale).
How can you help?
As parents, we aim to keep our kids physically safe at all times. However, it is difficult to ensure the same when they are online. So, what should you do to keep your child safe online all the time?
- Talk: Most kids are, you know, kids. This means they are naïve. They do not realise that what they are typing or sending on that screen will remain with the other person/people till they wish. You need to explain to them that there is another person on the other end. And while it might seem like this screen is protecting them, the truth is really far from it. So, they need to understand they are not supposed to reveal any sensitive personal information or photos, regardless of who is asking for it.
- Monitor: Become a pesky parent. Keep asking your child questions about their Internet activity in a well-balanced combination of subtle and direct ways. Make sure you set the home laptop or computer in an area where people are constantly present and not in a room with a door.
- Decide and discuss rules for social media use: Everyone wants to be on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and many other social platforms not only to be in touch with friends but also as it’s ‘in’. It’s best to discuss rules of using these accounts and only then allow them to join. This could include what kind of photos and information can they share.
- Keep your credit cards safe : While playing games online, it is quite tempting to buy any in-app purchases such as weapons, stars, and lives. Since kids don’t have their own credit or debit cards, they might be desirous to use yours discreetly. You might miss a transaction if your credit card is linked to your old phone number or you have too many cards to remember that one existed.
- Repair any damage immediately: If your child accepts any mistakes he/she has made online, be supportive. Before you jump the gun and decide to punish them, make sure you appreciate them opening up to you before it’s too late. Next, it’s time for some damage control. If your child has shared his/her number, change it; if they have uploaded any sensitive photos, see how you could delete them. Approach official organisations such as the cybercrime cell for help, if needed.