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Creating a Safe Virtual Environment
The internet offers a whole range of possibility for both adults and children alike. In the last twenty years the range of websites it is possible to view on the internet has absolutely exploded, for the better and the worse. This huge burst in opportunity and possibility has meant that the internet is one of the most vast information resources humankind has ever known, but unfortunately this reward also comes with some serious risks.
What’s The Risk?
Internet safety is something that has become a very serious matter in the last few years, as we have had to adapt as a society to the way that we interact with each other online. In real life, we have learnt how to handle situations, especially those of danger. We have learned through trial and error the best way to deal with difficulties and we have these lessons to pass on to each other through the ages.
This method of try and test does not exist in online spaces as they have not been around long enough to truly know this. However, there is more research being done into this all the time, and we are now aware of some dangers that can be faced online. This is vital information, especially for parents who are aware that their children are spending elongated periods of time on the internet. Knowing the dangers and possibilities is incredibly important. As Brian from California reflects, “I had no idea the dangers the internet held until my son started browsing online, then I thought to look into it. I was shocked about how many things could go wrong, and decided to take action.”
Luckily, there is action that parents can take in order to ensure their child’s safety, such as online extensions ensuring the children do not stray into unplanned virtual spaces. This is necessary as there is no stopping children from spending time online. Children living in the modern, digital age will inevitably use the computer. There is no denying or attempting to avoid this. However if children are left unsupervised with full access to everything on the computer, this definitely comes with dangers that parents should know about, and should be able to protect them from.
Matthew, a parent from Texas commented, “It makes me feel more safe to know the dangers out there, and know best how to protect my kids from them.” So what are these dangers? Well, there are a range of websites that are inappropriate for kids. For example, there is the potential for pornography to be viewed freely and easily online, which is incredibly inappropriate viewing for a young child.
Inappropriate Internet Content
No matter the age of the child in question, or their development at that time, pornography is not an influence that the child should be absorbing. This can be incredibly traumatic and harmful for the child in question, and can warp the way they view intimacy and relationships in their later life. This is definitely an area that children should be protected from at all costs, especially when they are too young to be able to truly understand what they are viewing. Mark was a child when he first viewed online pornography, and he now regrets that decision; “I didn’t realise what I was doing would be so harmful for my later life, and I wish someone would have told me not to view it.”
Left unsupervised, children may be able to access all kinds of inappropriate places themselves, or there is also the potential of them being sent this harmful content by a dangerous online user with malicious intent. Neither of these options should be allowed to take place, and parents must make sure that this does not happen.
These online predators are a real threat to internet users. There are ‘catfishes’ who pretend to be people they are not, in order to gain photographs or personal information about online users. This can lead to a breach in security, perhaps about online data or personal information such as home addresses or bank details. Even adults fall for these sometimes sophisticated schemes, so children are especially vulnerable and susceptible to these scams. Greg from Oakland experienced this with his children; “An online user was trying to manipulate my children into sending them money through a gaming platform. Luckily they spoke to me before anything happened, but I never felt secure with them using the internet alone again.”
Another huge online issue that many children are exposed to is cyber bullying. Unfortunately, when people are hidden behind screens they feel comfortable to attack and bully others on an online space. This is particularly common when using social media platforms, where people post either photos or comments and other children might respond negatively, with harsh insults or humiliating responses. Katie, 12, from Seattle experienced this herself; “girls in my school would comment that I was ugly and had no friends every time I posted a photo, so I stopped posting in the end.”
Cyber bullying is not to be taken as a joke and is a very serious matter that can have hugely negative impacts on children’s lives. Being a victim of cyber bullying could lead to depression, or recurring negative thoughts. It could affect their social lives in real life as well as the way they interact on the computer.
As this all happens behind closed doors and without parental supervision much of the time, the parents may have no idea that this is happening whilst their child is suffering hugely. This was the case with Monica, 11, in Colorado, “I cried every night for weeks because I was being bullied online, but I didn’t know what to do.” Monica’s mother was unaware of what was happening, and when she found out she was distraught; “We had no idea Monica was going through this, we just thought she was acting a bit strange. It broke our hearts to found out what our little girl had been going through, and now we’re aware of how serious the problem can be.”
Sales Of Illegal Items
These are just a few of the dangers that can be found online, but on top of that there are predators trying to meet up with children, there are sites that illegal substances such as drugs and weapons can be accessed, and there are sites with brainwashing propaganda intended to radicalise and alienate vulnerable individuals. These are not the sites that are at the forefront of the internet, we might add, but they are accessible to anyone who tries to find them, and parents should be aware of these risks.
So, what is the solution? Well since we know that it is unrealistic to expect a parent to stay supervising their child’s online usage all the time, we must find another way to keep children safe. Online extensions such as Browserlocks Kid’s Mode means that when kids are online, they are simply unable to access websites that their parents haven’t pre-approved. This immediately relieves the parents of the worry that their children might be accessing harmful online spaces.
Knowing that our children are safe online is the utmost priority, and even being aware of the potential dangers is already a step in the right direction. The best thing is to have a protective extension that means that kids can’t stray into unwanted or dangerous territories. Creating this safe virtual environment is so important, whether it’s using Kids Mode or any other extension. The priority is that our kids stay safe online.
There are so many great things the internet has to offer, so as long as we make sure that these are taken full advantage of, kids will benefit greatly from being online. If the virtual experience is monitored and tailored by the parents, everyone involved will end up being happy.
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