This is an easy question to answer, simply put there are many folks online that want to take advantage of and abuse children. The safety of your children online is just as important as their physical safety and well being as there have been numerous cases where aggressors have courted children online only to arrange an in person meeting later. Since we live in a connected world where children, especially if they are in good schools are taught about computers and how to use the internet from very early on, it is especially important for parents to be mindful of what their children are watching, reading, chatting online and with whom.
It is not a good idea for children to go online without some type of direct parent supervision as they are many times unaware of the dangers due to their youth and not prepared adequately themselves to protect and defend their own interests at times. It is critical that parents do everything in their power to ensure the safety of their sons and daughters. Additionally, it is a good idea early on to teach cyber security awareness to children.
Boys and girls need to be taught that “FREE” online games or applications come with a hidden cost, usually advertising or worse yet malware. Since parent’s as good leaders should lead by example, they should not observe their mothers and fathers downloading pirated movies or music. Not only is this type of activity illegal since you are stealing money in royalties to the artists’, but it can cause serious damage to your computer. As a matter of ethics children also should be taught that you should earn something, i.e. pay for what you have, not try to scheme to get things for free.
Children are like sponges and they keenly observe their parent’s so it’s a good idea to have your house in order so that you can be a good example to them as parent’s. Children should be taught that we are also all accountable for our actions, so by monitoring their online safety we can not only protect them, but they can learn that ultimately, they are responsible for what they do because someone is watching meaning their parents, teachers, bosses once they start working.
Your sons’ and daughter’s they should learn that you also need to be careful with what you post online since it never gets erased from the internet and a future employer or college can use that information against you if it’s is overly negative. I would have them read a few articles or watch a few news pieces about how some high school kids had their acceptance into Ivy League Schools revoked due to posting celebration pictures and such on social media or how you could get your security clearance revoked for certain online behavior.
How soon can I start teaching my children about Cyber Safety online? The short answer is as soon as they receive their first computer or have access to a computer at home or at school. Teach them that people are not always honest online, that they need to be careful when chatting with strangers, that “Free” online games, movies, music, or app’s means “Free Viruses” so they will have to reimage their computer and lose any data on it. That they are accountable for their activities weather online or offline, and that it’s important to have a certain natural curiosity about the world but also teach them critical thinking to ask questions, to challenge what people are telling them online in chats, to challenge news articles or stories online. You as a parent can leverage this opportunity to teach children critical thinking skills.
The safety of your children is critical for parent’s either online or offline and this can be an opportunity to teach and spend more time with your children so that they know that you are genuinely interested in their day to day activities. Many times, children get caught up into drugs or other problems at school etc. because they don’t feel loved at home. As parent’s spending time connecting with your children is something that can bridge that gap because let’s face it there is a huge gap between a 25-50-year-old and a 10 year old, and keep your sons and daughters keenly aware that you care for them and that are here to help. As children grow older this skill in Cyber Safety Online will not only help them in school but also in the workplace.