Safety rules are second nature to children; belt up in the car, look left and right crossing the road and do not talk to strangers. So why in an age where our children are so aware of the dangers of speaking to strangers in the real world, are so many comfortable with interacting and engaging with strangers online?
The issue stems from the fact that children suffer from a cognitive disconnection between the real world and the virtual world. They often do not transfer real world rules such as ‘Stranger Danger’ and protecting their personal information into the virtual world. Children do not comprehend the importance of these rules as they often cannot see the real life danger attached to their digital activity. This naivety can leave children exposed to the threat of unwanted interaction with strangers online. Children are growing up with technology as an integral part of their lives, with technology becoming more and more a fundamental part of your child’s life as they grow and develop.
So what can you do as a parent to help to protect your child, from stranger danger online? Through our work with children, parents and teachers at Zeeko we have found the following advice to be helpful and practical.
Explain the dangers of speaking to strangers online to your child and emphasise that real world rules still apply online. Help them to understand why interacting with strangers online can be dangerous, what the real world consequences can be and why they should stick with people they know in real life
- Screen your child’s followers and friends on the social media and gaming sites that they use on a regular basis. Ensure they are real world friends. Work with your child to delete and block any followers and friends that they do not know
- For younger children you can set up ‘play dates’ for online games between your child and their real friends. Organise a time slot where you allow your child join an online gaming session. Outside of these organised times, do not allow your child to use a headset while gaming and turn off the chat function of their games
- Teach your child to keep all personal information private. This means that their profile photo should not make them easily identifiable (for example, wearing their jersey from the local football club or their school uniform), that they do not mention their address or school in their descriptions and that they do not tag themselves in locations
You can find out more about the Zeeko Internet Safety Guide for Parents and the crowdfunding campaign we are launching on January 4th 2016 via www.zeeko.ie