Kids are drawn towards the Internet and in this day and age there’s not much you can do to keep them off of the computer completely. In fact, the Internet can be a wonderful place for children to explore as long as it is kept safe and secure for them. As a parent you have the responsibility to make sure that your children aren’t going to run into any difficulties online and in the rare case that they do that they feel completely comfortable going to you and talking about it.
Peer bullying and cyber bullying
This has made headlines in the media in the last few years and it is especially serious issue for teens in high school. Bullying could seriously affect your child’s personality development and social behavior. As we learned from recent stories, cyber bullying could lead to severe mental disorders and even suicide. Unlike traditional bullying, cyber bullying doesn’t require any face-to-face interaction and could be done by anybody regardless of their age, location, or physical ability. Most of the cyber bullying is done through social media sites like Facebook and it’s really hard to monitor. Psychologist warn that children with mental health disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders incl. Asperger’s syndrome are more likely to become victims of traditional bullying and could respond by becoming cyber bullies. If you child has one of the disorders listed above, you should watch very carefully for most typical signs associated with cyberbullying. These signs include sudden mood and behaviour changes as well as changes in computer use patterns, both complete withdrawal and running to computer to check their Facebook account or email every 10 minutes. In the age of smartphones, you should also watch for significant changes in the pattern of data use.
Right now there are more than 600,000 sex offenders that are registered in the United States. Up in Canada the numbers are harder to estimate but it’s certain that the figures are going up in relation to the numbers rising in the states. A lot of these sex offenders use online methods to lure in unsuspecting children and it is one of the most hideous crimes out there.
Inappropriate material on the Internet
This can turn up anywhere. Your child can manually type in a URL and simply by hitting the wrong button and making a spelling mistake can be brought to a site that displays graphic material right on the front page. This is something that no child should ever be exposed to and you need to make sure that your computer is protected.
Protecting your computer
There are programs available for purchase that you can download and install immediately that will help to safeguard the content that is available to your children. These programs should be mandatory for anyone that is handing a computer over to a child since they will stop all inappropriate material in their tracks.
There are also programs you can purchase that will give you access to all the sites that your child is viewing while keeping the inappropriate material out of sight. With this type of program you can access your child’s viewing history and look at your teenage children’s Facebook page. You’ll be able to see all of the chat sessions that occur between your child and others for yourself.
Is this type of monitoring an invasion of privacy or a way to keep your children secure? By letting your kids know ahead of time that you are able to monitor what they’re doing, you are not invading their privacy since it is no longer private. While your children may moan and groan about your efforts to keep them safe online, you as the parent will have the final say in the matter.
Anna Kaminsky is a recent graduate from the Psychology department at the University of Toronto. She is working as an intern at Richmond Hill Psychology Center assisting with psychological and psycho-educational assessments. Anna loves working with children and plans to continue her studies to become a child psychologist.