Bullying, sexting and a virtual world of adult strangers are just a few of the things parents need to be aware of raising children in the digital age. You might think you know all there is to know about online dangers, but let’s be real: You probably don’t. With new predatory apps and ways for savvy kids to work around monitored social media accounts popping up every day, it’s hard to keep up and keep kids safe.
Dan Sanchez, communications director for the Wilmington-based Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, along with the COO Joshua Alcorn and Executive Director Patricia Dailey Lewis, has put together a free ebook, “7 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Child’s Digital Life,” to help parents from the GeoCities era navigate the often brutal online world of 2020.
“What we’re finding is that more and more kids are susceptible to grooming and predatory-like behavior on the internet, with 95% of children having a smartphone device,” Sanchez told Technical.ly. “We talk about cyberbullying, privacy, online dating, the concepts of ‘friends’ online and how access to pornography is way, way higher than when we were kids.”
The intention isn’t to discourage kids from using the internet: “We’re not saying, ‘Take your kids’ phones away,'” he said. “We want kids to be able to engage in a healthy way.”
Some things to think about:
- If your kid is an online gamer, they are almost definitely playing with adults over the age of 35 unless they restrict who they play with to IRL friends.
- The vast majority of bullying happens online, not at school (and schools administrators can’t do much about it).
- There are apps out there designed to hide things like browser history and photos from you.
- Strangers can be predatory, but so can peers.
Hovering over a teenager’s social media account is pretty much guaranteed to drive them to create secret accounts, so your best defense is really just honest communication, Sanchez said. The ebook includes a customizable electric device agreement that lays out ground rules for use, including a promise that the child will not be punished if they tell parents about inappropriate content they receive or come across online.