Kids are using the Internet more and more these days, and as wise parents and adults, we know that there are dangers lurking out there. We worry about sexual deviants, we worry about stalkers, and we worry about our kids getting into illegal gambling or hooking up with a bad group of people online. Did you realize that those aren’t the only dangers that present themselves every time your child logs onto the Internet?
Of course, we know all about how predators use chat rooms, message boards, and social networking sites to target children and teens, but did you know that you child may be targeted by a peer? Bullying used to be the bit worry at school, but now it has moved to the Internet. An Internet bully can be someone your child knows or someone who is just out to do it for kicks. They might send threatening emails, instant messages, or post false or damaging information on boards frequented by your child.
Another huge danger that lurks for kids on the Internet is the danger of Internet addiction. It may sound silly, but kids can become addicted to the Internet just like they can get hooked on drugs or alcohol. There are even centers for Internet addiction rehab, with China leading the way. Whatever the vice, the Internet has an addiction, whether it is gambling, auction sites, or adult material. Kids who are addicted to the Internet show some of the same signs of addiction that drug addicts exhibit. Withdrawal is similarly severe, with symptoms like shakes and in some cases physical sickness.
As kids spend more and more time online, advertisers take notice. Have you ever done a search for something and noticed the little advertisements on the side of the screen? Those don’t get there accidentally. Advertisers are finding extremely specific ways to target advertising towards children. Many advertisers try as hard as they can to gain your kids’ attention in an attempt to sway their patterns of thought. There’s a lot of money in the ‘guilt purchase’, so they’re constantly after kids to pester their parents into buying the latest plastic toy. Research has shown that kids who are constantly barraged with advertising not only recognize brand names and logos, but form brand loyalty at a very young age. Kids see the logo or character on the Internet, then they see it in the store and want it.
You also cannot ignore the fact that teens are curious and children often don’t have the good judgment to not click on certain advertisements or emails. Adult oriented material is all over the Internet, or as one popular song circulated on viral video sites states, “the Internet is for porn”. While not every site on the Internet is porn or porn related, there certainly is no shortage of sites out there, including many with misleading names. These sites have names that would suggest an innocent subject matter, but have intentions far from innocent.
With all of these threats coming from the Internet, parents and guardians must be vigilant as to what their kids are viewing on the Internet. Educate your kids about the dangers of meeting strangers online. Let them know that if they are contacted by someone they don’t know, they can tell you about it. Let them know that you are interested in their on line activity because you want to protect them from everything that can hurt them. Parenting responsibly is difficult, but with a little patience and discernment, you will succeed.
Have a great day!