Ask your kids what they do when they’re online – chances are that most of their activity involves communicating with other people through social media, email chat rooms, instant messaging, and even online dating. This communication can be convenient and fun, but it can also open up a world of dangers for children and teens.
The major problem with online chatting is that it lends a degree of anonymity- sitting behind a computer screen, people can be who they want and say what they like without the same kind of responsibility that comes with face-to-face interaction. The internet is also alive with malicious predators, whose primary aims are to lure, harm, or steal.
One of the most worrying concern is ‘grooming’ – the sinister, often slow-moving practice of luring a child by posing as an online friend. ‘Groomers’ get to know the child or teen and collect information before initiating a meeting, often with malicious intent.
Email can also be risky, with email phishing and spam emails on the rise. Phishing occurs when cyber criminals email to try and extract personal information like usernames, passwords and credit card details. And they’re becoming very good at it. Phishing is one of the leading contributors to fraud today, with 80% of malicious software attacks coming from phishing.
As parents and guardians, it’s our constitutional obligation to protect children from harm, according to Dawn Coleman-Malinga, senior state advocate at the National Prosecuting Authority’s Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit.
We can monitor our children’s internet activity and online communication to a certain extent, but a more powerful way to protect them is to empower them with knowledge about how to protect themselves.
In this section, we’ll provide information about signs to look for to identify if your child in engaging in unhealthy online communication, details about different safety and filtering software, and safety measures to make your child aware of when they’re communicating online.