How to Avoid an Internet Arms Race with Your Child

6 min read by Bogdi

published 9 luni în urmă, updated 9 luni în urmă

Internet safety is incredibly important, but without the right tools, you can easily engage in an internet arms race with your child. In today’s world, kids have access to smartphones, tablets, and computers, so they have full access to the internet- the good and the bad. Using the internet does not have to be dangerous, and it does not need to be a battle.

If you have a child, or children, that frequently use the internet, you can easily find yourself in a battle over rules. For all the best info on how to avoid an internet arms race with your child, keep reading.

Set Basic Internet Rules for Your Child to Follow

Basic rules are your frontline defense against your child getting into trouble on the internet. Simple, easy to follow rules will prevent too much room for negotiation. Of course, your children will argue because that’s what kids do, but simple, straight forward rules will cause less friction. The less room for rebuttal, the less likely you are to engage in an arms race for the internet.

The first thing you need to do is make sure they understand how dangerous talking with strangers is. After you stress that, give them some basic rules and guidelines.

If they are old enough, show them some of the missing child reports and explain that if someone ever wants to meet them in person, they need to tell you immediately.

If they are too young, they are too young to be in situations where they will be talking to other people.

There are ways to set rules to protect your children and yourself from predators, bad sites, phishing attempts, and other problems you both may run into.

  • Make sure the websites they go to have the closed lock in the address bar and start with “https” instead of just “http.” This means the site is secure and should be safe enough to enter personal information.
  • Make sure to monitor who they speak with and if anything feels off, let them know.
  • You are the adult. You make the rules for their safety, not to be the fun crusher.
  • Educate them to never give any personal information- name, grade, age, school, or any other information about themselves to a stranger. They should let you know immediately if someone is asking questions about their personal lives.
  • If your child is younger, do not allow them to have a Facebook or other social profile. If they are under thirteen, it is against the rules of most sites, but it also is not safe.
  • Be careful about how much of them you share on your own profiles. If you have your privacy set to public, do not post pictures with their name, age, grade, or school where anyone off the site can see.
  • Double-check all emails. Phishing is getting more convincing, so if an email that looks official asks for passwords or any other personal information, make sure to check with the website itself and do not follow links.
  • Only follow links when you know the sender of the email.
  • Choose passwords that are extremely hard to guess and write them down where you can come back and find them later. Don’t save passwords under a profile your child can access.
  • If your child plays games online, listen in on the conversation to make sure they are not too adult or playing with adults.

Not all adults playing video games will be bad for your child, but you do not want your child to think of them as anything more than their teammate, and they should not build a relationship with them offline.

Educate Your Children on Internet Predators

When your child is aware of potential dangers, he or she may be less likely to veer outside of the internet spaces you’ve deemed accessible. They’re also less likely to break the rules if they understand why you’ve put the rules in place. In theory, this will help you avoid the internet battle.

If you find a friendship you are not comfortable with blooming, do not force them to cut it off immediately. That can lead to a power struggle you will not want to be part of. Do watch and monitor every form of communication they have.

They may innocently be talking about similar interests, or the adult could be grooming them. Make sure you are familiar with the warning signs of cyber grooming, so you will know what to look for.

Make sure you keep the conversation about online activities constant, flowing, and non-judgmental. Children need to feel your support to continue to come to you as a resource and for a safe space.

Make sure your children understands there isn’t anything to fear from you if they mess up, but if they do mess up, you will need to know. Any time you discover what seems to be a predator, contact either the FBI or the local police.

Get to Know the Signs of Cyber Grooming

When an adult befriends a child as a way of trying to start a sexual relationship, it is called grooming. They will befriend parents and act like adults in the child’s life that they can look up to. Online is very similar but can be more dangerous due to the anonymous nature of the internet.

If you are worried about a relationship your child is forming with someone online, pay close attention and monitor the conversations. Even if you do need to sneak, at best, you will find innocent conversation, and at worst, you need to have a real talk with your child.

Predators often pretend to be children or teens in the same age range as the victim. They will start with an innocent conversation to get to know your child and will move on to a more adult and sexual nature.

They may send nudes and ask to receive them in return. They may resort to blackmail or threats to keep inappropriate pictures coming. The most extreme end is that they may meet your child at school or ask to meet privately. It all starts with what seems innocent but moves on to your child being harmed. There are organizations for fighting child sex trafficking and sex abuse.

Here are a few very important behaviors or things you should keep an eye out for in adult interaction with your children online:

  • An adult who seems to have too many common interests with your child
  • An adult who is wanting to communicate with your child off the game
  • An adult who talks about adult topics with children
  • An adult who just makes you feel like something is off
  • A child whose story does not seem to fit
  • A child who is trying to talk to your child about inappropriate subjects
  • A child who uses too “adult” words and sounds like they may be an adult pretending to be a child
  • A child who is wanting to meet alone with yours

Set Healthy Boundaries and Stick to Them

Building trust will help strengthen your relationship, and create a mutual respect. Once you’ve established the boundaries, your child will ideally feel like they have some control over their own time on the internet. This will reduce their drive to be sneaky and lead you both down the path of an internet arms race.

Set healthy boundaries. Keep monitoring them through the teen years. Teens are more likely to get into serious online trouble than younger children, so you need to know the who, what, and where of your child’s internet activity.

Do not snoop. If you snoop, you will make your child feel like you do not trust them and can make them rebel. Instead, make the clear rule that you are to always be able to access the history. You can also go into the history of the computer through the settings.

Do give some privacy. If your teen is messaging a friend, girl/boyfriend, or coworker, do not read the messages. If it is someone they know in person, do not violate their privacy. Even though you are the parent and wanting to keep them safe does not mean you should know every single conversation they have with everyone.

If you violate their privacy, it can make them feel that you do not trust them. They may pull back, and if they do get in trouble, they may not want to come to you.

Final Thoughts

You want to monitor and work closely with your child. You want to make sure they understand the dangers of being online and that not everyone has their best interest at heart.

You do not want to be domineering, and you do want to give them some privacy with conversations with their real friends. Do not overreact by reading every conversation, but read any correspondence between them and someone you do not know.

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