Hi lovelies. I’m going to write about a more serious topic. One that I find important and that I think needs to be given a lot more attention and consideration. Whether you’re a parent or not, you will have probably noticed that as time has gone on, children are able to get their hands on devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops and have access to the internet. It’s sort of abnormal now for teens to not have at least a cell phone or a laptop and many younger children are privileged enough to have most of these devices nowadays. To some, it probably seems harmless and find that in this day and age, it’s almost necessary to be able to connect to the world and live like other children their age, but to others, like myself, it screams “Danger”.
Just yesterday, I watched a news report on TV about an eleven year old girl from Orlando, Florida who went missing this weekend. Luckily, she was found. Reporters couldn’t tell us much as the time, but they had found her in Georgia, which is one state up from Florida. She had traveled there by car, with a man that she met on the internet, who was posing as another teenage female online. They had been communicating while playing the game ‘Minecraft’ and on Sunday morning, the girl’s father went to wake her up, but found that she wasn’t there. Luckily, the FBI were able to find her and reunite her with her family, but could you imagine if something like this happened to your child, your niece, your nephew, your brother or your little sister? Imagine if they didn’t find her so quickly?
It raises the question, are we really doing enough to keep our kids safe on the internet? And if not, how can we?
Here are some facts on Online Predators and kids
- Approximately 95 percent of all Americans between 12 and 17 years old are online and three in four teens access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices (as of 2012)
- One in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the Internet says they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web. Solicitations were defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give out personal sexual information. (only 25% of those told a parent)
- 75% of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services
- 33% of teens are Facebook friends with other people they have not met in person
- 82% of sex crimes involving a minor are initiated from social sites. This is so, mainly because on social media, it is possible for child predators to gain access to information about their victim online
- Only one-third of children actually report online sexual assault crimes
- 33% of teens are Facebook friends with other people they have not met in person
My own experience as a parent
Two weeks ago, I found out that my seven year old daughter had made an Instagram account. She downloaded the app onto her tablet, which she had also changed the passcode to. She had uploaded two or three selfies, and a couple of videos of herself talking. When I saw it, I felt a rush of anger and embarrassment go over me. I knew instantly that I had not done a good enough job of keeping her safe. When I found out about it, my daughter was in school so I couldn’t login to her account. I quickly went to check who was following her and what I saw made me feel sick. She had several adult (older) male followers and one in particular, a middle-aged Dentist, with two children and a wife, was liking her pictures and videos. Not just a few of them, all of them. I clicked on his “Following” list, and saw that he was following quite a large amount of minors, mostly cheerleaders or child models and also liking all their photos which is quite inappropriate. At first I didn’t know how to react, I just got angry and upset. I decided to wait until I had calmed down to send him a message, letting him know I’m aware of what kind of person he is and that I’d be reporting him. He deleted his account, but a few days later he had logged back in. It wasn’t him I was mad at though, it was myself for not supervising.
How we dealt with the problem
As soon as I found out that Izzy had made an Instagram account, I told her father who agreed that it was not appropriate for her to have social media. Once she got back from school, he rang me so we could both speak to her at the same time and let her know that we don’t want her to be on the internet. We tried our best to explain what online predators do, without going into too much detail as she’s only seven years old, but enough to make her see where we are coming from.
Then we set some new rules and both agreed to be more aware of what our kids are doing online so nothing like this ever happens again. Here are the rules:
- We were to keep a better eye on her, check her devices and her history more often
- She is no longer allowed to sit on her own and play on her tablet
- If she goes on the tablet, she has to ask an adult first
- No smartphones
- We are to know all her passcodes / passwords
- No YouTube or chatting on Roblox (A game she likes to play where kids can communicate), no social media at all
Since then, we’ve had no other issues.
I felt ashamed that I hadn’t been watching what my children were doing on the internet. I should have been keeping a closer eye on her, I should have been more aware of things but parenting is all trial and error. I’ve forgiven since forgiven myself. Lesson learned.
I didn’t even know what the internet was at that age. Kids use the internet in schools, but it’s restricted for their safety. So why aren’t we doing the same at home? Why do we give them the benefit of the doubt? Why are we allowing them on websites that we ourselves use as adults, knowing full well there are so many evil human beings out there, preying on young children and why aren’t we making sure we know every single thing they are doing? Is it that we don’t want to invade their privacy? Maybe we think they are too young to be figuring the internet out and learning how to connect with other people online. Maybe we just have so much going on in our lives that we don’t have time to keep checking on them. Maybe we think “Oh, that wouldn’t happen to my child”. Whatever it is, we need to be more careful. Sitting on the internet all day and night doesn’t have to be the norm either.
If you have children, or are planning on having children in the future, I urge you not to turn a blind eye like I did. With more and more parents not showing an interest in what their kids are doing online, it’s making it easier for online predators to lure children in. We need to keep our little ones safe, no matter what age they are. Whether they are seven years old or seventeen years old. Kids are naive. Kids are full of innocence and don’t understand just how cruel the world can be. They need us to protect them.
Here’s a list of things you could do to keep your child safe online:
- Use Parental Controls to limit what your child can do on their device
- Make sure you know all their passwords
- Login to their accounts on a daily basis
- Check their internet history on a daily basis
- Communicate with them, tell them why they are to be cautious online and why talking to strangers online is NEVER okay
- When talking to them, do not put the fear in them about it, just state facts and let them know you want to keep them safe
- Only allow them to go on sites such as YouTube when they are in the presence of adult supervision
- If you insist on allowing them to have social media accounts, add them so you can see what they post and who’s commenting
- If they are on social media, set a rule in place that they have to keep their accounts private AND only add people that they personally know
- Limit the time they are allowed on their devices to only a couple of hours each day, so they don’t become hooked
- Spend less time on your phone and pay more attention to the kids
Personally, I think we need to go back to letting kids be kids. Play outside, read a book, do something that doesn’t involve staring at a screen. I think that as parents, it’s our job to make sure there’s a healthy balance in the activities that they do. It’s our job to educate them, and keep them safe online from the ever growing world of online predators.
What are your thoughts on children being allowed on the internet? What do you think the appropriate age is for a child to have access to tablets/ the internet? What do you do to make sure your kids are safe online? Let me know in the comments, even if you don’t have kids.
Thank you for reading.