Did you know that more young children today can play a computer game than swim or ride a bike? According to a study commissioned by AVG, 58% play computer games, 20% know how to swim and 52% can ride a bike.
Perhaps the most shocking stat is that 69% of kids aged 2-5 are on computers and probably know just enough to get into trouble online.
In our daily world of co-presence, we warn our children about strangers and how to be street smart; however, we often overlook the necessity to keep our kids safe in cyberspace. The sad story of Amanda Todd from Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, is a frightening reminder of how badly things can go for a young person using online, social media. Amanda was a victim of online sexual exploitation and relentless bullying from peers. Her life ended in a tragic suicide.
Although you might not consider it, our children are at as much risk surfing the net as running around the streets unsupervised. The main message we’ve provided our children is to distrust strangers in the physical world, but we’ve fallen short on how to prepare them for cyber strangers, especially since social media provides a false sense of intimacy that young and old alike desire in daily life.
It’s that yearning for connection that unscrupulous people exploit via the Internet. You might think the other person you are communicating with has your best interests at heart, but there is no way to verify the character or intent of another person using online social media.
Experts agree, there are common sense ways to protect your kids from cyber threats. Here are a few options to consider:
Digital skills are a necessity in today’s technologically dominated world, but parents have to find a balance between too much screen time and family time. There’s no magic bullet or formula to protect your children in cyberspace, but you can increase the odds of keeping them safe by taking preventative measures, talking about potential risks and modeling the behaviour you want from your kids.
Once they leave the home, you can’t control your kid’s behaviour, and as they grow into young adults, you can hope that all the measures you’ve taken can provide them with enough information to make good choices.
Marc Arellano teaches communication at Okanagan College in British Columbia, Canada. He has worked as a technical writer, editor and copy writer.His current academic interests focus on computer-mediated communication and the effects of new media on culture.
Marc Arellano enseigne les communications au Collège de l'Okanagan en Colombie-Britannique. Il a travaillé en tant que rédacteur, éditeur et concepteur-rédacteur. Ses intérêts académiques actuels mettent l'emphase sur la communication au moyen d'un ordinateur et sur l'effet des nouveaux médias sur la culture.