Kids today have access to and are accessible to many millions of people worldwide via the vast array of websites, applications, and online games. The unprecedented amount of personal information available on these sites makes them a perfect place for people who would happily identify their victims and gain their trust. Other identified dangers include exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and harassment, exchange of inappropriate images, and identity theft. Teens are often not aware that their words and or photos, which may have been intended for a small audience, sometimes find their way to a larger one, often with both unexpected and undesirable consequences.
Today’s parents grew up in a world devoid of these technologies. They often have little knowledge on how best to assist and guide them and when interest or concern is shown, suspicious kids ‘fob’ them off with the typical responses of ‘You won’t understand…..’ ‘Go away it’s private……’ or ‘You have no idea…..’
Internet and mobile phone technology is fabulous and provides us with the ability to connect with people all around the world. We can explore and learn about the world like never before, however, cyberspace does have its problems, and unfortunately for kids, they are the primary targets for people’s warped ideas and bad behaviours. Young people are often targeted and groomed without the ability to recognise that this is occurring.
Kids’ technical skills are superb. Adults today cannot even aspire to the level of technical knowledge inherent in today’s kids, but we do know that this skill is not matched by cogitative development. Nothing we do can ‘put an old head on young shoulders’ and the ability to perceive risk, and foresee consequences is limited.
Kids need to appreciate and accept that just as in the real world, there are dangers in cyberspace. Parents need to teach kids that cyberspace is permanent. Everything that they write, post and send can be traced and will remain there forever. Do they want that comment, or pic from Saturday night’s party on the desk of the person conducting a job interview in 10 years time? Are you happy for that naked pic, sent trustingly to their boyfriend who loves them dearly and will not share it with anyone (until he has it or you break up or both) on the computer of a paedophile? Kids need to think before they click and parents and teachers need to educate them to ensure that where possible, the correct decisions are made in the first instance, not after a moment of madness.
Don ’t be afraid of technology. Learn about it and embrace it as your children do. Accept that they will access content that might upset them, often not because they went looking for it and make sure that they are comfortable coming to you when this happens. Spend time online with them. Cyberspace can be a lot of fun.