The Internet is an amazing tool for people of all ages—including children. Not only is there a mind-boggling amount of information about virtually any topic that can be accessed in seconds, but it also allows for communication and socializing with people in completely new ways. However, with that increased connectivity comes the potential for abuse—and often times, the victims of this abuse are children.
Kids are infinitely curious, so it’s no surprise that the Internet can be incredibly appealing to youngsters. But with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter becoming so popular in recent years, it can be tempting for kids to spend more and more time interacting with their friends virtually rather than in real life. Some children get so caught up in this digital world that it may begin to replace their interactions in real life—both good and bad.
One of the most common problems for preteens and adolescents is cyber bullying. Gone are the days when a child’s sole interaction with a tormentor might be in the hallway or in a single class period. Now with social networking, the bully has access to a victim’s profile and can send harmful and hateful messages at any time.
In addition, there’s also the threat of children getting involved in friendships online with adults who may be out to take advantage of them. These relationships may start out innocently enough, but television shows like To Catch a Predator have shown that many online relationships involving children can take a turn for the worse very quickly.
That’s why it is important for parents to monitor a child’s Internet usage and stay involved with their life. Ask questions about what they’re doing online such as who are they talking to, which of their friends are online, and do they have any Internet-only friends?
In some cases, it may even be appropriate to install software on the computer that blocks websites like Facebook and Twitter if a password you set isn’t entered. But before doing this, it’s important to sit down with your child and discuss the possible dangers that might lurk in cyberspace, and make sure he or she knows that things that happen online can very easily spill over into real life.