This month I would like to discuss Cyber Safety. In my role of School Community Officer I look after 35 schools, and over the last 3 years I have been contacted by almost every school for assistance with cyber safety related issues. The issues range from relatively minor concerns around unwanted texts, to young people obtaining sexually explicit images of their friends and posting them on line. The age of some children involved is alarmingly young, and in many serious cases there are strong indicators that the child has had access to pornography, which may be considered psychological abuse when viewed by a person under the age of 18.
The problem is not going to go away and criminals are in our area. The rule of optimism means we think the baddies are in Nigeria and we doubt our children would be at risk, however, they are.
Make family and friends aware of what you will and won’t allow when posting photos online – and leave the personal information out. You wouldn’t ask your child to go to the supermarket and give a stranger a photo of them sitting on their bed, so why would it happen online? And it is – a lot! This draws the wrong type of person to you, and just like adults, if the friendship/relationship breaks down, your image could be used to destroy your reputation, and future. Predators troll the internet for images with clues to a potential victim’s location and identity. A photo posted of a child in school uniform, or a sport’s team uniform may be enough to start a connection. Declaring vulnerability to strangers is motivation for the offender, for example if a child has had a fight with dad, the predator will become the confidant and listen and agree with the child. They will find common ground and this is the process of grooming.
Online requires the same parental oversite as the physical world. We may be tempted to tell children to get in the real world when they are on their devices, but our children have grown up with the internet and it is ‘The Real World’ to them. It is all they have known. Make sure your child can talk to you about anything, and consider your response because if you have the wrong response your child will not talk to you about problems. It is up to parenting relationships and values to protect the child, regardless of whether it is the Internet of physical world.
Netsafe is an excellent source of information for all internet users. Check out these 10 things to think about at https://www.netsafe.org.nz/online-safety-for-parents/
1.Set expectations 2.Understand what they do online 3.If you don’t understand it, try it 4.Set a good example 5.Teach them the basics 6.Setting up social media 7. Give them the tools they need 8. Online bullying 9. What about ‘sexting’ 10. What if something does happen?