Youth Internet Safety

young girl on computer in bed 

At night, you make sure the dog is in, and the doors are shut and locked. You tuck your children safely in their beds, shooing away any hidden boogeymen. Then you set yourself up for a good night’s rest. But, as you lay your head on your welcoming pillow, there remains a nagging feeling of impending danger: The door you forgot to close? Perhaps a window left slightly ajar? The worst threat, however, doesn’t come in through physical windows or doors. But the monster that pulses like a silent current into your home is very real. The virtual entrances allow predators to undulate their way through smartphones, tablets, and computers. Are you closing those doors and windows? Here are a few dangers to be aware of:

Pornography

InternetFilterReview.com states that 25% of Internet searches are for pornography, which is roughly 68 million searches. The stats get worse. Around 90% of eight to sixteen-year-olds have inadvertently seen online pornography while doing homework. Whether intentionally or not, it is inevitable that anyone who spends time on the Internet will view pornography.

Cyberbullying
The definition of cyberbullying involves using information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others. Here are some disturbing stats:

  • About 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying nationwide.

  • Among students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied at school during the school year, 15 % were bullied online or by text.

  • 1 in 5 girls are bullied; 1 in 10 boys are bullied.

  • Reports of cyberbullying are highest among middle school students, followed by high school students and primary school students.

  • Research indicates that persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, despair, and depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal behavior.

Web Predators
Youth have equal access to communicating with friends, family, and strangers online. There are many tragic stories about kidnappings by Internet predators. Alicia Kozakiewicz was only 13 when she met a 14-year-old boy online. They set up a time to meet, but a young man was not who met her. After four days of torture, Alicia was rescued and is now an international motivational speaker talking about her traumatic experience and Internet safety. Of her ordeal, she stated, “The boogeyman is real. And he lives on the Net. He lived in my computer — and he lives in yours. He is at home with your children.” Click the link below to learn more about her story.

Precautions
There is only one way to significantly increase the protection of your family, face-to-face communication. Yes, it would help if you considered software programs and filters. Still, the most effective means of teaching about the dangers of Internet predators is by having honest, age-appropriate, and ongoing conversations with your children. 

If you don’t know where to start, take a few minutes to do some online research, call your local police department, or even contact your school counselor for ways to initiate and keep the conversation going. Following these five steps will help keep those monsters at bay and give you greater peace of mind: 

  1. Take all devices out of the bedrooms and put them in high traffic areas.

  2. Talk about online dangers and keep an open line of communication.

  3. Monitor all online usage, including any phone apps and texts.

  4. Know the passwords to any accounts your children have access to.

  5. Repeat steps 1-4, often.


Sources to Check-Out:



Contributed by Angelica Mecham

Disclaimer: This and all other articles on Union's blog site are meant for information purposes only. If you are experiencing any form of distress, please dial 911.