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5 Myths About Online Safety and Kids
If you read any of the many horror stories about online safety you’ll want to wrap your kids up in cotton wool and ban them from the internet until they’re 35.
While inappropriate content and bad people are out there, the internet can be an exciting tool for kids too.
Knowing as much as you can about online safety is the quickest way to help keep your kids safe on the internet, which is why we’re taking a look at five big myths about online safety.
1. Digital natives just ‘get’ it
Using something and actually understanding it are two very different things. While your child might have grown up with a computer or a phone, that doesn’t automatically mean they understand it.
No doubt they can do everything they need to when it comes to communication, Google, and gaming—but how well do they really understand online safety or programs like Excel or Photoshop?
The Office suite and software like Photoshop are an excellent starting point for teenagers and young people when it comes time to go to university or to look for a job. Coding, web development, and digital design are all hot-button skills right now, especially in booming tech and digital fields.
And while young people learn many skills online, a growing skills gap exists. Suggesting an online course or class to your child could help them get ahead. They might not follow through, but there’s no harm in suggesting they get more familiar with the true workings of the tech in their lives.
2. Kids are worse-behaved online
The vast majority of kids don’t approach the internet with the intention of causing trouble or bullying someone.
While online anonymity definitely means many young (and not-so-young!) people say things they wouldn’t dream of in real life, research from the Pew Research Internet Project actually found that ‘the majority of social media-using teens say their peers are mostly kind to one another on social network sites’.
The internet does a lot of good too. Initiatives like The Harry Potter Alliance and Project for Awesome have inspired and mobilised young people to fight for social change and to raise money for charity.
If you’re worried about online gaming, a recent report actually found no evidence that violent games make kids more aggressive—though they might be frustrated in the moment while playing the game, and even then that’s a reaction to losing and not the violence.
3. Parental filters are enough to keep your kids safe online
Parental filters are great for young kids, but they can be very harsh and accidentally block all kinds of useful content and sites, which will be very frustrating for your kids.
Older kids also tend to be pretty savvy and parental filters can be gotten around. While parental filters are a good starting point, we suggest teaching your kids about online safety, either by talking to them or playing a game with them around online safety.
4. “My child won’t seek out inappropriate content.”
Kids are curious by nature. They learn and grow by imitating and searching. While you might think your child is too young or just not interested in seeking out inappropriate content, they might hear something in school, from friends, or in a forum or chatroom that’ll lead to an online search.
If you do suspect your kids have been searching for inappropriate content, you don’t need to panic. Instead, have a conversation with them. You might come away from the chat feeling embarrassed, but your child will know that you won’t freak out on them if they need to talk about something.
5. “It won’t happen to my child.”
Talking to your kids about online safety is important, but it isn’t a catch-all to keeping them safe online. Younger kids in particular don’t often grasp how dangerous the internet can be. Many young people are too trusting, and can befriend or fall for strangers posing as kids their age.
YouTuber prankster Coby Persin ran a social experiment where he posed as a young boy on Facebook and struck up a friendship with three girls. Each girl befriended Coby’s persona and agreed to meet him. One girl even got in a van with Coby, who is in his late twenties.
The parents of each girl confirmed that they’d spoken with their daughters about the dangers of the internet beforehand.
While teaching stranger danger is important, you should check in with your kids every now and again to remind them about the signs of predatory behaviour. They might recognise something they wouldn’t otherwise—with themselves or a friend.
Do your kids enjoy gaming? Find out how you can keep your kids safe when online gaming
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