Social networking is constantly changing and developing in ways that many parents can’t always understand or keep up with. Therefore, it’s important for parents to stay up-to-date on the online risks kids face, regardless of what the newest social networking or other online trend is. Social networking sites, for many teens and tweens, are the most prevalent forms of interaction and communication, and parents need to have a good understanding of what their kids are doing online so they can better relate and be prepared to talk to their kids if they suspect they are at risk for anything. Check out the dangerous and most prevalent online risks below.
8 Online Risks for Kids and Teens:
- Cyberbullying: Probably one of the biggest concerns for most parents, cyberbullying can be a serious risk whether kids are the victims or the bullies themselves. If kids are bullying online they not only put their own reputation at risk, but they could be seriously endangering the lives of their victims. And if kids are being bullied, symptoms for parents to look for are changes in mood especially after spending time on the computer, lack of energy, or avoiding school or social activities.
- Sexting – Sexting is serious not only if teens send racy photos or messages themselves, but also if they are the recipients of such messages and casually pass them along to peers and classmates. More and more laws are being passed related to creation and distribution of child pornography, and with sexting messages spreading like wildfire, teens may not only risk embarrassment but legal issues as well.
- Online predators – Kids and teens are at an age where the validation of someone they meet online can really boost their self-esteem and give them a sense of purpose. Even more dangerous, kids may be too scared to tell an adult about new online relationships for fear of getting in trouble or being forced to end the relationship. We hear horror stories all the time of kids being lured by online predators to meet face-to-face, so make sure both you and your child know who their online friends are both on- and offline.
- Online reputation – Cyberbullying, sexting and other online activities can all contribute to a negative online reputation for teens. Whether they face consequences now or down the road when applying for college or jobs, cleaning up one’s online image and past activities can make a damaged reputation much more positive and appropriate.
- Oversharing – One way that kids risk damaging their online reputation is by oversharing personal information online. It’s important to not only maintain strict privacy settings on Facebook pages and other online profiles, but remind your kids that what goes online stays online.
- Inappropriate information – It’s easy to access pretty much any kind of content online, whether you’re a kid or an adult. YouTube videos are an especially easy way for kids to find potentially dangerous or scary information, so make sure your kids know that they can talk to you if they ever see something online that is disturbing or that they have questions about.
- Marketing or advertising scams – It’s easy to be prompted to enter personal information online, so remind your kids to never enter their full name, address, phone number or – if they have it – your credit card information. Internet marketers try to scam users online all the time, including through social networking sites. Your kids can also be at risk for purchasing products online without realizing it.
- Computer viruses – Kids are naturally curious, and can easily attract a virus or hacker to the family computer if they see some kind of enticing deal or other content online. Before your kids delve further into what could potentially be a harmful virus to the computer, remind them that online scams are rampant and that they could compromise the whole family’s online privacy and security.
Parents can prevent many of these risks by simply having a conversation with their kids and teens about online dangers. Be friends with your kids online if you want to, but also consider using some other kind of monitoring method. And an effective way to emphasize the very real online dangers are out there is to discuss recent news with your kids – they can relate to the serious consequences of online activitiesif they see another 13-year-old in the news for sending a racy text message or being in contact with an online predator. Finally, keep the family computer in a prominent place or common area of your house. The best way to make sure your kids are staying safe online is to be there for them whenever they come across something online or take part in an activity that may not be appropriate.
Of these risks, what do you fear the most for your kids?