What you, as the parent, need to know about how the Cyber World is affecting your child

What you, as the parent, need to know about how the Cyber world is affecting your child... Part 2

Now that you know what the internet can offer and how it can influence your child, here are the next media hints and tips you should be aware about.

1) Facebook:
Children tend to put everything on facebook. What they like, who their friends are, what they enjoy socially, how they are feeling etc. This creates an opportunity to talk to them and  identify with them. It is a safe place to talk to each other. They may think they are talking to  someone of the same age and gender with similar interests, which can quickly lead to an opportunity for online predators to take advantage of what seems like a trusting relationship.

Be aware that some kids even have two facebook pages; one that the parents monitor and  are aware of and another on which they can interact freely with others, without the knowledge and seemingly invasive oversight of their parents or guardians. You can never know exactly what the children are doing all of the time, therefore you need to teach them about the Internet, its dangers and why they need to be safe when using it.

Think about this: Do we check out their cyber friends just as we check out their real friends? Always explain why you decide on certain rules. Don't just make them without an explanation, otherwise your child may merely perceive you as being unjust or unfair for no reason. Remember this: the legal age to use Facebook is 13 and up- not earlier! This is for a good reason!

Unsupervised internet usage is potentially very dangerous. Children are curious young beings and it doesn’t take much to “accidently” discover how to make a bomb, steal a car or worse...

You can't prevent your child from being exposed to much of what is out there, in the real world and in cyberspace. Rather choose to go down the road of discovery with your child  rather than letting him/ her go down there with strangers. Teach your child about it rather than close your eyes to the reality of the age we live in. At least you will know what they are doing and they will know that they can ask you for advice or guidance, rather than a stranger on the other end of the network. The truth is that the person on the other end will teach them what they want your child to know, unless you get there first; that is a fact! There have even been cases recently adults trying to chat to children on Moshi Monsters as well. This is supposed to be an innocent virtual-pet forum for kids, but has become another area of focus for the cyber-predator.

2) Sexting:
Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones. Girls are often pressured by boys to get them to send explicit images of  them. This is achieved through emotional blackmail and is often the result of peer pressure  initially. This soon leads to others receiving the images as well, also paedophiles. Possessing such images is tantamount to possession of child pornography. Sending such images is tantamount to distribution of child pornography, which can be applied to not only adults, but to minors as offenders.

Every picture that is sent can mean up 10 years imprisonment. The offenders name also goes on the sexual offenders list. This can mess up the life of the child in the picture and the child who sends it, often without the knowledge of the consequences of their actions.

Don't simply say to your child: don't do this. Rather tell them that they would be stupid to do this because they are looking at being locked up. Anyone who would choose to do this is looking at being locked up for many years, often more than the amount of time served for  murder.

Z3) BBM:
BBM was created to be a safe and secure form of communication. However, know who your child's friends are on bbm. A good rule is that they should only have friends on their  bbm who you have met, or who you are likely to meet for example at their next birthday.

Know that it is not your job to be your child's friend. Statistically children would rather turn to a teacher or a friend who they can talk to. Try to have such a person in your child's life. Try not to be the friend of your child's friends. You have a responsibility towards your children. Your child is going to replicate the behaviour you role-model for them. So act in such a way that your child learns how to behave correctly. It is important how you parent your child, always have that in mind. The best you can be for your child is to be his parent.

Golden rules of the Internet:
  1. Don’t give out an information about yourself.
  2. Never agree to meet someone who you met on the Internet, especially unsupervised!
  3. Never abuse anyone over the Internet
  4. Let the children be part of your Internet work and be part of theirs
  5. Make sure that your and their facebook site is set on private
  6. Put the computer in a common area, where usage can be easily supervised.
  7. Increase your knowledge about the wording and short versions of sentences (MOS: Mom Over Shoulder etc...)
  8. Teach your child about the dangers that exist on the internet
  9. Increase your knowledge of the sites your child is using
  10. Make sure your child is old enough to search the sites he/she is using
  11. Teach your child about the pros and cons of the internet.
If you have the chance, watch the movie “Trust”. It centres around a family who’s child has been victimised by an online predator. Be aware that it may not be suitable for the younger children as it carries an age restriction of 16. Best for parents to watch first before letting the kids see!

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