We always tell stories to our kids about MONSTERS who act as devil in fairy tales and we even warn our kids to stay safe from such kind of devil person in real life too. But do you know there is one DEVIL in DISGUISE, who stays in our house always, nearby our innocent kids!!! And that monster’s name is INTERNET, who travel through the network connection to invade our digital devices, then conquer our mind and finally create a CYBERSPACE around us!
As we are aware that now-a-days, schools are promoting SMART classes, having smartboards and tablet devices to teach our kids. Even for home activities, we are obliged to use mobile apps which are provided by the school to download the worksheets and get it done by our kids as homework. Furthermore, the children are habitual to use their parent’s mobile phone every now and then, either for studying or playing games. The use of tablets or iPads are also very common among the children for learning purposes as so many educational apps are available for them.
What is Cybersafety?
Cybersafety is the safe, appropriate and responsible use of Internet or other information and communication technologies (ICT), by restricting our behaviour online, in order to be protected from the threats, risks and damages that can propagate through Internet.
There are three main categories of RISK that children may face while using Internet:
The situation where a child is Recipient and the source of risk is mass production of upsetting, inappropriate, illegal, sexual, violent or hateful contents, commercial spam emails, biased, racist and misleading info/advice, etc. These are called Content risk.
The situation where a child is Participant and the source of risk is adult-initiated activity like child being harassed, stalked, groomed, bullied, tracking and harvesting personal information, self-harm, meeting strangers etc. These are called Contact risk.
The situation where a child is Actor and may be involved in wrong deeds like creating and uploading inappropriate content, illegal downloading (pirated materials), sexting, bullying or harassing others, hacking, gambling, financial scam, terrorism etc. These are called Conduct risks.
Please note that here we are referring to Kids (aged between 5-12 years old) and Teens (aged between 13-19 years old). A “Child” is referred for both kids and teens situationally in the article.
Parent’s roles and responsibilities towards Cybersafety of their children
1. Research thoroughly and be well-informed about this problem and its solution:
The more you know about the problem, the better you can find the solution. So, educate yourself about the games, apps, social media sites, other education related apps, that your child is using, so that you can evaluate the possible dangers out of it.
2. Take preventive measures to safeguard your children:
Make sure you put some age appropriate restrictions on the devices that your kid uses, before handing it to them. But yes, the situation can be different for teenagers as they are smarter to undo any kind of restriction.
3. Talk to your children:
Before talking to your children, make your mind to have an open and honest conversation with them about online safety. Do not threaten or frighten them on this topic.
4. Don’t be too restrictive or try to spy on your children’s online activities:
By restricting or spying your children’s online activities, you may risk them to get engaged in dangerous online activities behind your back.
5. Come up with a safety plan with you and your children’s contentment:
While discussing about unethical online practices and its consequences with your children, you can ask them about their views and suggestions on this topic. Then conclude some set of rules for online activities to be safe and secure.
6. Be approachable for your children, if anything concerns them:
Always remind your children that you are there to help them, if anything happens that concerns them. Don’t be judgemental when your children try to discuss about their anxiety. Teach them on how to respond in case of any trouble and encourage them to be proactive and report any online nuisance to the authorized official websites (provide information to your children about these websites).
We cannot have same kind of approach to tackle this problem for both kids and teenagers, as the kid’s mindset and their vulnerability of cyber-crime is different than that of teens.
So, parents should have different approach for kids and teenagers.
ELABORATION ON HOW TO SAFEGUARD YOUR CHILDREN:
Safety measures for Kids (aged between 5-12 years old):
1. Create Kid’s space on parent’s digital devices (mobile/laptop/ tablet):
If the kid is using parent’s mobile phone or other digital device then make sure that it has different login like guest login for kids. So that when a kid is using your device, you can put your device in kid’s mode and give it to your child to use it. Make sure that in that kid’s space, it has only kids friendly apps and games, with age appropriate restrictions.
2. Setup your kid’s device for them to use:
Download and install the apps which you think your kids can use. For example, install #YouTubeKids for watching videos, other learning and educational apps, secure game apps etc. Modify the settings in the device that any app download should have password restricted and that password should be known to parents only. So, if a child knowingly or unknowingly tries to download any app, they won’t be able to do so without parent’s permission.
You can also install some apps for parental control and monitoring, which will restrict the child to safe browsing, and you can track their online activities. Install a good antivirus software, which will protect the device from malware.
3. Teach them to think before clicking:
There are many ads in game and video apps, so kids are either lured to click on those fascinating ads or they do it mistakenly. Sometimes it downloads some files, games and ask for in-app purchase. Some ads may take you to some online store, where kids may end up buying some product, as COD (cash on delivery) or payment on delivery can also be an option.
So, teach your kids and make them aware that these are unethical way of selling apps and products online and we must not click on any of them. If we click unintentionally or by mistake, then we should cancel or close it immediately.
4. Talk to your kids very often and ask them questions about their online activities:
Sit beside you child when they are doing online activities, ask them to show you what they generally do in the device. Don’t make them feel that you are investigating their activity but ask them with curiosity. This will not only help them to share their online space with you, but they will also share any concerns or problem for your solution.
Safety measures for Teenagers (aged between 13-19 years old):
1. Have open and friendly conversation:
Talking and discussing is the best way to protect your teenaged child from cyber threats. Be open, honest and friendly while discussing this serious issue with them as they are growing up and they might be aware of some adult related topics or contents.
2. Make them fully aware of cyber safety:
Lack of information and knowledge can also mislead our children. So, give them a complete understanding of what are the risks, how they can harm us, what are the various ways by which those risks can arise, and how to handle them and be protected.
Help them to find some software to protect their device and online accounts from phishing, scams, malware etc.
3. Teach your children some basic rules to remember:
To avoid any confusion like what to do in what situation, set some basic rules for your children to follow as best practice.
- Don’t click on any unknown unwanted link or content
- Don’t provide your personal information to strangers
- Don’t share any rumour or hateful message
- Refrain yourself from browsing inappropriate content, sexting, pornography etc.
- Don’t bully others and inform your parent if anyone bullies you
- Don’t make any online purchase without parent’s consent
- Never participate in dangerous games, dares and challenges
- Don't talk to strangers on social media and consider them as friend
Make sure that you and your child both agrees to these points and promise to follow them religiously.
4. Assure your children that you are always approachable for them:
Teenaged children mostly get misguided by their same aged friends, social media strangers, false or misleading information on internet, etc. In this situation, the best trusted person, who can guide and support the teenagers are their parents. So, assure them, always remind them that whatever be the concern, you are always approachable for your children. Remember that we should not be judgemental over your child’s concern, otherwise they will never turn to you for help. Listen to them carefully and try to think from their perspective, and then try to bring some solution out of your discussion. Two-way communication is the best way for strong bonding between parent and children.
5. Always trust your children and show confidence in them:
Never show your suspicion for your child and always tell them that you trust them a lot. Always show your confidence that your children can never break your trust. This doesn’t mean that you need to blindly believe whatever your child is saying, but you need to tackle the situation in positive way, if you think that your child is in some misconduct.
In the situation where your child has been brainwashed or lured to do something offensive by means of network communication, they will be reluctant to talk to you if you blame or scold them. In that situation, you need to be calm and tactful.
Parenting is very stressful, mindful and responsible job of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. The upbringing of your child depends on your parenting style, so we need to be very conscious while raising our children for better life and future.
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