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Nebraska Children's Home Society Adoption Agency: Teaching children about online safety in the digital age

In America, 71% of children 12 to 17 years old use the internet at home. Whether it is to do school research, browse websites or playing online games with friends, it is important to make sure that they are safe and aware of basic internet safety. This means not leaving themselves open and vulnerable to strangers, not giving out personal information and speaking up if they have encountered someone online that is bullying them. We can’t take the internet away – it is part of everyday life, and confiscating phones and tablets will only be seen as unfair punishment. Instead, we need to teach children to keep safe and savvy online.  

Understanding cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the use of the internet and electronic communication in order to intimidate or threaten someone. 65% of children have experienced some form of cyberbullying, both from people that they know and from strangers. Just because this happens online doesn’t mean that it’s any less serious than bullying in person. In fact, the consequences are just the same. You should speak to your children about how best to deal with bullies. Firstly, they should tell an adult. Secondly, they should learn how to report and block the person in question. Make sure you praise them about this and tell them that bullying is sadly common. The more we talk about it, the easier it will be to stamp out. It is also important to stress to your child that the bullying says far more about the bully than it ever does about the victim. 

Keeping personal information safe

To help make it clear exactly which information you are giving away, web designers work to make websites accessible so that everybody can read and listen to all the content. A minimalist design with transcripts helps to make it completely transparent when it comes to understanding what information you are giving to someone else. However, when you are on social media, it is not quite so easy. Sometimes, you think that you are having a conversation with a friend when in fact you are freely giving away valuable personal information. 94% of teenagers use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, and restricting these channels is difficult. However, parents can teach their kids not to part with pertinent details online, such as passwords, addresses and financial information. 

Develop a trusting relationship

69% of teenagers frequently receive online communications from complete strangers and don’t tell a parent or guardian. Many of these communications are innocent. Perhaps the communication is merely a friendly part of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), such as Roblox or Fortnite. However, 89% of unwanted solicitations are made through chat rooms and online instant messaging. You should aim to develop a relationship with your children where you can openly discuss what is going on online and how to deal with any inappropriate behavior. That way, they will hopefully tell you if one of their online relationships is questionable.

Education about internet safety begins at home. Teach your children about stranger danger online and how to keep their personal information secure. Most of all, talk to them regularly about what is appropriate behavior online. 

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