As a parent, you are thrilled that your children have access online to so many resources which you never had. At the same time, you are concerned for your child’s safety in cyberspace. For instance, if your child is using a popular search engine for example Google and types “how to”, it automatically suggests how to complete the search parameters. Most often some suggestions are inappropriate and can lead the child to public forums where they may be targeted for abuse. What can you do about this? How can you keep your children safe?
Last year the BBC ran a story of a 14 year old girl who attempted suicide as she was being subjected to repeat bullying online over a period of seven months due to her skin color. Whilst she had alerted school authorities who had stepped in to resolve the issue, she couldn’t handle the pressure in the long term and felt abandoned. She felt that she could not confess to any of her teachers and the school had advised her not to involve family into this. Unfortunately, the lack of a support system drove her to attempt suicide. Investigations into the case identified a boy as the abuser and he was sent to a prison.
In the story above, we see lack of proper counsel and adequate support given to the girl as well as lack of supervision and guidance in the boy’s life. Two young people have ruined lives because the adults in their life probably failed to act responsibly. It is possible for parents to take pride in their children being tech savvy, but also overlook the need for supervision.
Sometimes, we do not realize that the teens have limited exposure to human relationships makes them exposed to online risks. As parents we need to be loving and firm to help our children grow in life. Modeling good values in family, community and society will help children reflect the same when online. Giving a healthy social exposure to children will help them relate with people of different personalities and respond appropriately.
Your child’s digital behavior is an extension of his/her social behavior. What most teens experience in their relationships at school is largely influenced by their conduct at home with parents and siblings. It is not only about protecting our children from being cyber bullied, it is also about teaching them to be kind and considerate with others online and in the real world. Here are a few pointers to consider.
Never give up on your child, he/she is what you teach and help them become a good human being. Build a relationship such that you are your child’s friend, counselor and guide to help them excel in life successfully.