Parenting has always been considered one of the most difficult jobs in the world. However parenting in the digital age has upped the ante numerous times – it’s challenging to say the least!
As a mother of two primary school children myself, I chat with a lot of parents with children between 5 and 12 years old. Whenever we get chatting about the fears they have around their children’s online behaviour, it’s clear that most parents are very concerned about the risks of being online, and about the way their children use technology.
Whether it’s seeing inappropriate content online (most commonly porn and violence), spending too much time looking at screens, or the possibility of their children being a victim of cyber bullying, this topic is very emotive.
I find that the vast majority of parents with children in primary school, so in their pre-teen years, are far more concerned about what will happen in future due to their children being online (and when I say future, I mean in particular when they are teenagers in high school) than they are about what’s happening now.
That has prompted me to write this post, to share with you the three most common and dangerous mistakes most parents make that unknowingly put their children at risk. It’s vital to know what these mistakes are so that you can avoid making them, in the interests of keeping your children safe online.
Mistake #1: Waiting Too Long
If you’re like the vast majority of parents with children in this 5-12 year age group, you’re well aware of the many risks that are incurred by children being online. You’re probably concerned most of all about cyber bullying and social media, as well as predators luring your children into scary situations. And that’s just the start.
But here’s the thing: most parents fear what will happen when their children reach high school, but underestimate what their children might be doing right now.
If you’re children are 5, 6 or 7 years old, chances are the biggest concern you may have is limiting their screen time. In particular, boys at the age of 7 often want to play games online, and some would happily do so 24/7 if you let them!
You may also be legitimately concerned about your children coming across inappropriate content online. After all, an innocent google search can lead to not-so-innocent content appearing right there on page one of the results. And a link that appears to be safe enough may not lead to the content you’d expect to find once you get there.
Social Media – ARGHHHH!!!!!!
Commonly, when children first start asking their parents if they can use social media (bearing in mind average age of social media usage is just 10 years old despite the legal age requirement almost always being a minimum of 13), our response is something like “No honey, you’re too young for that. In a few years you can start using it.”
But here’s the thing. By the time your children are just 8 years old, they are likely to be incredibly tech-savvy already. Of course they can operate a phone and a swipey screen – they’ve been doing this for years. But they can also easily override age restrictions to use social media platforms and chat apps they’re not supposed to use until they’re at least 13 (who cares about the legal age requirements?). And they can create their own videos and post them online, having no regard that what goes online stays online, or of the consequences that may come from the videos they post.
But it doesn’t end there. Children who are 8 years old can often override parental controls if they want to, and they can hide their browsing history online. They can be using social media without you even knowing they’re doing so. It’s unlikely you’ll find them where you are on Facebook; more likely they’ll be on Snapchat, Instagram or somewhere else.
They’re Not Being Naughty
It’s not that your children are being ‘naughty’, or at least that’s not their intention – far from it. But if their peers at school are already using social media, they won’t want to miss out. If they comply with your wishes they’ll feel socially isolated from their friends, and the FOMO effect (Fear Of Missing Out) will get to them. If they don’t do as you say so that they can keep up with their friends, they can’t/won’t come to you for help as they know they’ll be in trouble. So they’re left to their own devices. Scary huh!
The Time To Act Is Now
If you want to keep your primary school children safe online, don’t wait until they’re already teenagers in high school! This is WAY too late; in the majority of cases the ship has sailed by then. To keep them safe when they are older, you need to be taking action now.
You’re no doubt familiar with the phrase “prevention is better than a cure”. This is SO true when it comes to online behaviour. You’re much better off guiding your children’s online behaviour safely from the start, than dealing with a situation that occurs after they’ve made a mistake online – a mistake that could potentially have a real impact on their future.
Not yet convinced? A group of 8-year-old girls have been known to create a pornographic video of themselves emulating a video they found on YouTube, and then post their own video online. Can you imagine how you’d feel if your daughter was one of those girls? Please don’t let this happen to your children by waiting too late before taking action to keep them safe online!
Mistake #2: “It Won’t Happen To Me”
Our perfectly natural response when we hear of stories like the 8 year old girls above is that “It won’t happen to me”. We all think (and pray!) that our children would never do anything like that. Our children are responsible – they are generally well-behaved children, they know not to talk to strangers online, and they wouldn’t do anything so irresponsible.
Well I can tell you, the parents whose children DID make a mistake online thought exactly the same thing.
Nobody thinks it will happen to them and I certainly hope that in your case you’re right. But it’s not safe to just assume it won’t happen to you. As a parent you need to do everything you can to minimize the possibility of your children getting themselves into trouble online. This involves taking action. I’ll let you know how you can do that in just a little bit.
Mistake #3: My Children And I Already Know Enough To Be Safe Online
Who hasn’t told their children not to talk to strangers online? To be specific, about 92% of parents explain to their children that it’s not safe to talk to strangers online: this is online safety tip 101. But more than 42% of children are approached by strangers online, and a lot more than 8% of children respond.
Simply telling your children not to talk to strangers or to bully other people online is not enough – it’s not even close.
Part of the problem is that we think we know enough, and don’t see the need to learn more. As with most complex topics, you can see from the image here how it pretty much works.
Sure, you know about 1/6 of what you need to know to keep your children safe online. And you know that there’s another 2/6 of information that you need to know. However what you don’t know is that as far as the other half of information goes, you just don’t know what you don’t know! Got it?
Knowing just a little bit about a topic is a problem. It gives you a false sense of security, and as far as keeping children safe online goes it’s downright dangerous.
What Can You Do To Keep Your Children Safe Online?
As I said at the start of this post, parenting in the digital age is not easy. Keeping your children safe online is a complex problem without an easy “fix”.
In saying that, there is a relatively easy way to get all the information you need in the shortest possible timeframe, so that you can have a much better chance of keeping your children safe online. It’s called the Peaceful Digital Parenting Solution and you can find out all about it right here: http://childrenandtechnology.com/peaceful-digital-parenting-solution
All parents want what’s best for their children, and we all do the best we can with the knowledge we have. So it follows that if we make the effort to learn more, we’re in a position to be better parents. This translates to being able to keep your children safe online, and to doing your best to master the challenge that is parenting in the digital age. Don’t just cross your fingers and toes that everything will be OK – take action to make it so by checking out the Peaceful Digital Parenting Solution. You have nothing to lose and your children’s online safety to gain 🙂