Today’s kids are growing up in a digital world. While digital technology can often have its benefits, it’s important to also be wary of the dangers it can pose to your family. Here are just some of the biggest digital dangers and how you can protect your family from them.
It’s easy to become addicted to digital technology – especially now that phones, TVs and games consoles all of internet access. Some families can spend all their time staring at screens and never really socialising with each other. This can have a major impact on family relationships as well as leading to depression and anxiety.
There are also physical health problems that can develop from spending too much time using digital technology. The idea that people get ‘square eyes’ is an old wives’ tale, however a lot of people can get eye strain and headaches from staring at a screen for too long, as well as finding it hard to get to sleep (staring at a bright screen before bed can sometimes trick our brains into thinking that it’s still daytime, preventing us from producing melatonin).
Limiting screen time is the best way to prevent addiction. If the whole family spends a lot of their time staring at screens, it could be time to introduce a screen-free hour each day. This could help to encourage time spent together as a family or time spent pursuing other interests that don’t involve digital technology.
Some kids may protest to this, in which case you may have to take measures such as turning off the wi-fi for an hour per day or even confiscating devices. Alternatively, you may be able to use parental controls on devices to put a limit on screen time. If you don’t feel such measures are needed you could simply set rewards for not spending so much time on devices.
Digital addiction is something that can often be prevented in kids by taking action early. Many of us are guilty of giving out kids a smartphone or tablet as a distraction tool, but this shouldn’t become a regular habit to the point that screens replace toys. You may also want to be careful of giving kids their own phone or tablet too early – or only letting them have these devices an hour or two a day at first.
Fraud and theft
Digital technology has also become a new tool for criminals. While most criminals target businesses, everyday people and homes can also get targeted. Using details acquired online, criminals can hack into accounts or even plan burglaries. Such details can often be given away by kids who are generally less wary of the consequences.
The importance of online privacy is something that should be taught to kids – especially as they start buying things online themselves or using social media. Teach kids what they should and shouldn’t share on online (i.e. no financial details or passwords) and teach them to use privacy settings. You should also encourage them to only use only trusted websites (there are security programmes that can alert you when a site is not trusted).
The likes of this Borgata online privacy guide could be worth reading if you’re not sure yourself of what measures you should be taking. Many people for instance are unaware of certain fundamentals like cookies and SSL certificates.
Bullying has now also moved online and can be a big danger to kids – particularly teenagers who are old enough to use social media. Online bullying tactics can include posting horrible comments about people, sharing embarrassing photos or videos or constantly harassing people on messenger platforms.
Not all kids are victims of online bullying and it can be hard to prevent, however you may be able to warn kids about it simply by talking about it and by teaching them how to react when it starts to take place. This could include immediately telling parents or teachers about a bullying problem or blocking people on social media platforms.
The threat of online bullying can also be reduced by discouraging addiction of digital technology. It’s much easier for kids to get away from online bullying if they’re able to turn off from it, whether it be not going on social media or not using certain devices.
The likes of this Understood online bullying guide are worth reading for more strategies on how to spot online bullying and stop it. You can also find many counselling services online for kids that are being bullied online and for the parents dealing with this issue.
The web has also unfortunately become a common place for sexual predators to locate and target children. If your kids are going to use digital devices without your supervision, it’s important that you warn them about predators and how to prevent contact with them.
A good lesson to teach – which applies to the real world too – is to not talk to strangers. Predators will often try to connect to children through online games and apps, so try to persuade your kids not to talk to strangers on these platforms. As for when your kids start using social media, tell them to never accept friend requests from people they don’t know. Alternatively, you could teach your kids to come to you if a stranger is sending them messages – this way you can check the messages to determine whether you think they are worthy of concern.
This Bark guide could be worth reading for more information on how to protect your kids from online predators. Parental controls on some devices may be able to help prevent contact with these individuals as well as preventing your kids from accessing graphic content.