A babysitter is there but she is on her phone, distracted. Jaime tells Naomi she has something to show her. The next day, Naomi goes home and tells her mother that she saw a man and a woman having sex on the computer. Naomi was not expecting to see this explicit material and is now very distressed about what she saw. Her mother is devastated. It is not uncommon for youth to accidentally stumble across, or be exposed intentionally or unintentionally by their peers, to sexually explicit images or videos online.
A new study shows that one in five children between the ages of nine and 17 report having accidentally seen sexual material online through websites, pop-up videos and spam emails. Moreover one in nine say they have received unwanted sexual solicitations online.
One in five youth see unwanted sexual content online, says new research Internet technology can be used as a valuable informational resource and learning platform. But, as it is largely unregulated, it also has its disadvantages. There are a growing number of initiatives to promote safe, ethical and responsible engagement online, under the umbrella of a concept called digital citizenship.
Due to their inexperience, children may not understand the risks they can be exposed to online. Below, we provide some suggestions and resources to arm parents, educators and young people — to use the internet safely and responsibly. Have discussions early and often Start discussions about online and offline safety and responsibility early and continue to have them regularly.
Parents can have these discussions at home, and teachers can incorporate digital citizenship into the curriculum. Monitoring and age-appropriate information Media smarts a not-for-profit organization for digital and media literacy suggests that when children are under eight, parents should sit with or near them when they use the internet.
Children aged eight to 13 should use the internet in common family areas and should be made aware of the potential dangers of the internet. Your discussions will be most effective if they cater to the specific platforms that your children spend time on. Common Sense Media provides reviews of online games, apps and programs kids are currently using. Children should use the internet in common family areas, where they can be more easily be supervised. Have specific rules about which websites can be visited, which apps can be used and what can be shared online.
Know who their friends are, online and offline. Remind kids that they should always talk to a trusted adult if they feel unsure, worried or confused. Use controls and filters Set filters to try to block adult content. You can also include parental controls on apps such as Netflix so that your child only views shows suitable for their age. There are also sites such as YouTube Kids , that try to ensure safer online experiences for kids.
Take the opportunity to learn from them. This effort will show your interest, while also allowing you to identify potential risks associated with the platform in question. Reflect on your own media use Setting a positive example for your children is as important online as it is offline.
Be mindful of your own internet use, as well as your online presence and profile. Children will notice and learn from your behaviours, so modelling digital citizenship and safe media usage is crucial. Initiate device-free family time to provide opportunities for connection and engagement with one another.
Be understanding Not all children are distressed by what they see online, but if they do see something that makes them uncomfortable, they may feel embarrassed or distressed , which may make them reluctant to talk about it. When children do talk to you about their concerns, or a situation that happened, try to be understanding, supportive and empathic and assure them they did the right thing in bringing it to your attention.
A humorous sextortion education video. When kids feel that they can come to parents for help with difficult topics, they are less likely to engage in risky behaviour. Going through these scenarios with kids before anything has happened will help them know what to do if they encounter trouble. This is especially the case for teens. Teach children to ask themselves the following before posting online: Is this illegal, harmful or hurtful in any way or does this put my personal information at risk?
Teach problem-solving skills While preventing problems is a great first step, it is also important to provide suggestions for how to deal with a difficult situation or crisis when it arises.
Here are some situations that kids and teens often encounter, and strategies for how to deal with them. In all situations, let kids know they can come to you to work through it together. Block the person, report the person to the website.
Collect evidence of the harassment or bullying e. Ask the person to stop, and do not fight back or retaliate. Brainstorm ways to turn down a request for a sext, such as using humour. Delete the text and do not share the image. From a very young age, the knowledge and skills imparted to children by supportive adults — including parents and educators — can positively influence the decisions they make online, and offline too.
There are several resources that parents can use if they want to learn more about keeping their kids safe online, including Common Sense Media , Get Cyber Safe , Media Smarts and Cyber Wise.