Over the years, the internet has managed to establish its role as one of our most influential partners in raising our kids. From entertainment and communications to education, it has become a reliable and, to an extent, indispensable tool for our children.
However, due mainly to the anonymity that it affords to its users, the internet has also evolved into a perfect platform for various online crimes and abusive activities.
Just recently, the news about the international cyberpornography trade that the Australian “porn king” and his Filipina live-in partner, dubbed the “Savage Girl,” have been operating in the Visayan and Mindanao areas was all over social media. The infamous couple is reported to prey on unsuspecting female street children and scavengers by luring them into their fold, torturing, molesting and forcing them to perform hideous sexual acts, videotaping them, and selling those live-stream videos to their sexually-perverted clients from across the globe. The victims’ ages range from 1-12.
There was also the case of a female student who experienced grave sexual harassment online when she posted her picture showing her at a protest rally.
Moreover, the rising number of reported cases of suicide triggered by cyberbullying, body/slut shaming or social media depression is something that is causing serious alarm to authorities.
As parents, we need to ensure that our children are protected against these cyber bullies, online predators, pornography vendors and cybercrime offenders. Here are some tips to help us safeguard our children’s online safety.
- Talk to your children about the nature of the virtual world and the concept of digital footprint. Make them understand that, just like the real world, the cyberspace is both a wonderful and nasty place. It is a platform that offers unlimited possibilities, but with ease comes threats, with convenience comes dangers, and with functionality comes risks.
- Advise your children to be cautious and discerning about what they share online. They should, for instance, refrain from giving out personal information that could be used by identity thieves. They should never share their exact location at any given time. And they should not flaunt suggestive/revealing pictures or pictures of their personal belongings and properties. Most importantly, they should secure their social media accounts at all times.
- Tell your children never to engage in online chats with strangers. Child predators often pose as kids in chat rooms to make them seem less threatening, and when they eventually earn your children’s trust, they can easily convince their gullible victims to meet with them. That is when real trouble begins.
- Encourage your children to come to you if anything ever makes them uncomfortable. Kids are naturally hungry for attention and social acceptance. But if they are constantly taught about moral boundaries, it would be relatively easier for them to spot online jerks and to identify sexual advances disguised as sincere compliments.
- Keep the computer in a common area in the house, and create and strictly enforce ground rules on the time and length of use of that computer. If you have wi-fi in the house, customize specific rules for internet access for each of your children. To ensure compliance, inform them that offenders will be meted out with corresponding penalties.
- Monitor your children’s online activities. Be aware of the kinds of websites that your children frequently visit and the kinds of people they regularly hang out with online. You may want to invest in a recording software that would allow you to see all the data that your children have seen, received, downloaded and viewed. There are also software programs that could enable you to monitor your children’s mobile devices.
- Filter the websites that your children can access and block those harmful ones. Using parental control software products that are readily available online, you can customize the web content filtering settings appropriate for each of your children. You can also modify the default settings to add or remove sites at your discretion.
- Report to the proper authorities any incident that you suspect can expose your children to online danger. Preserve the pieces of evidence by taking screen shots of the inappropriate materials, e-mails, photos, etc. that can be used in filing a case against the offenders.
- Set an ideal example to your children by being a responsible and cautious #CyberPinoy. You cannot be a credible role model to your children if you are telling them one thing yet your actions are saying something else. Practice what you preach.
Written for and submitted to Inquirer.net
Commissioned by Globe Telecommunications Company