Guest post – by Monisha Iswaran
With all kinds of digital devices out there in this day and age, and the vast Internet just there to be explored, the dangers of sexting and other things that can go wrong online that parents have to look out for are greater than ever before. If you give your child free reign of the Internet, you don’t know who they may be talking to or what the subject matter of such conversations may be. So here are a couple of quick tips to help shield them from the dangers of sexting, Internet strangers and more.
Don’t Leave Them Alone With The Computer
Children are curious, and when there are websites out there that allow them to connect with strangers (either through games or chat-lines) they are probably innocent in their intentions to explore. This is way more likely to happen if you leave them holed up in their rooms with a personal laptop, iPad or other device. Instead, encourage habits from a young age that involve only using their phones and laptops in public areas of the house (this is especially for those around tween age).
If you want to make it seem less controlling, set up a nice area that you can call the “Internet area” (or whatever catchy name you desire), where they know they are meant to go when they are working or playing online. Have this be their own cosy nook, but in a location that is visible to you. This alone will make them far less likely to engage in the dangers of sexting. Invest in kids furniture and make it a well set-up corner that they enjoy being in!
Have Open Conversations About The Dangers Of Sexting With Your Kids
If you want your children to be mature when it comes to making decisions about who they talk to online, you need to treat them as the mini-adults that they are! This means encouraging open conversations with your children, even about difficult subject matters, from a young age.
This could involve getting into a habit or ritual where you make an effort to connect with your child, and what is going on with their lives. This way, if they are talking to someone online who’s making them uncomfortable they’re more likely to be forthcoming with you regarding their problems.
You could make it a daily ritual at family dinner to share “One thing that made you happy, and one thing that made you sad” that day. Alternatively, with younger kids, get into the practice of sitting down before bed for a chat while they hold a beloved teddy or stuffed toy. Ideas such as “the share bear” can be used to encourage the notion that when you are holding the animal, it’s your turn to share your feelings on something that’s bothering you. Dolls are great items for children, as they get emotionally attached and comforted – having something to cuddle as you go to sleep can be great (no matter how old you are)!
Take A Combined Approach
Essentially – keeping kids from forming dangerous relationships online with strangers, and potentially engaging in activities such as sexting can be tricky! It takes a combination of a practical approach and an emotional, empathetic approach. Therefore, through a combination of putting in place rules that they have to follow when using the Internet, and being a strong pillar of emotional support for them through all tough situations, as a family you can steer them clear of activities with negative effects.