Article in brief: children who are able to face challenges and negative situations in real life are more able to be in control and manage the stressful situations that can occur in the virtual world.
“I am scared because there are photos of me on the internet that other paedophiles know what I look like, I don’t know if they know where I live”, Child victim of sexual abuse recorded in indecent imagery – NSPCC, 2014).
Privacy is an issue for everyone today with the fast development of the Internet and other new technologies. It’s shocking how high the numbers have grown in terms of risks that children may face constantly on the Internet. And if children don’t have a supportive adult in their lives who can effectively guide and answer their questions and concerns, they might be more likely to encounter offenders and cyberbullies through communicating and sharing content online.
One of the main domains of cybercrimes against children is called content risks, which is simply described as the act of sharing illegal or harmful content online.
Children may inadvertently share personal information without realizing that they may become an easy target for predators, or they might be disclosing content that might not reflect well on them in the future since it could be put up on hundreds of websites.
Some children don’t have the tendency to seek out inappropriate or illegal content, but they may accept or download some of these files while conducting some online searches that could be referred by others.
Just as you might not want your children to watch TV programs or read magazines that are meant for adults, you may want to be as concerned about their exposure to harmful content in the Internet, their mobile phones or games. Children might incorrectly type a web address or click on a pop-up ad out of curiosity, resulting in seeing something that could be traumatizing, distressing or upsetting for their age.
Being children in the Internet without the supervision of parents is like a home without a roof. Children and young teens may receive some harmful advice from strangers in online chat rooms to view some pornographic movies that might harm them.
They might be easily given harmful advice in virtual networks from paedophiles or predators who try to contact young people for cyber stalking, pornography or cybersex which is very dangerous for children.
Internet risks that children might encounter online could be avoided if parents put effort in encouraging their children’s schools to embed stronger and more effective Internet Safety programs starting in the early years. Parents then also need to complement this learning at home by listening and discussing internet dangers with their children at home and taking the necessary precautions by limiting their access to wifi and placing computers in family rooms and not in closed bedrooms.
Sadly, when children see or witness inappropriate things online, even in small doses, it can have a long lasting impact on their mental health development and by building their resilience, communication skills, and family bond, we can better equip children to face these possible challenges.
Resilience is being able to cope after facing negative and difficult situations and to go back to nearly the same emotional wellbeing level. We should teach our children to perceive situations positively to help them be in control and have a much better chance of not falling victim to online dangers.
You can initially start building up your children’s resilience in the real world, which will help them be in more control and enable them to bounce back from adversities in the virtual world.
Written in collaboration with Arabian Child organization. Visit www.arabianchild.org for more information about early childhood education in the United Arab Emirates.
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A loving mother of a son who has changed her life and put it into perspective. Ayesha is a senior social media specialist, a Global Leader for young children in the Arab region, and a writer in few Arabic publications. Her column is written in collaboration with the Arabian Child organization, and offers inspiration and an in-depth exploration of early childhood development.