5 important things kids must learn before they go online

There’s an added challenge when it comes to raising kids in a world that has gone digital. There are parents who may feel overwhelmed or overpowered by their children’s attraction to gadgets and the online world. This is quite understandable.

Image credit: Tim Gouw (@punttim)/Unsplash

“The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World” — a comprehensive report done by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) — examined  “how the internet increases children’s vulnerability to risks and harms, including misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyberbullying.” The report added that “the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices, the report notes, has made online access for many children less supervised — and potentially more dangerous.”  

So, what can be done to make sure that kids don’t get hurt during their online explorations? Well, the best way for kids not to get scammed or victimized online is to educate them about the online landscape. Here are five things they have to know before they’re allowed to go online with minimal or intermittent supervision.

1. There are bad people out there. Earlier this year, the Department of Education (DepEd) urged parents and guardians to be more attentive to their kids’ activities online. This was in the wake of a disturbing “Momo Challenge,” which urged kids to harm themselves or others. 

Then again, parents and guardians can’t just look over kids’ shoulders all day long. This is why they have to warn kids against criminals who lurk online and may try to get more personal information from them. There are also bad people who just want to wreak havoc on other people’s lives.

“What I do is watch movies or TV shows about cybercrime with my kids,” shared Leo, 50, a father of two teenagers. “There are quite a lot of movies highlighting the evil that lurks online. We watch Criminal Minds. Maraming cases dun na ‘yung criminal would use the Internet to attract victims. My kids were affected by those stories and I saw that they grew more cautious online. I admit it’s not a conventional way of teaching them online safety but, hey, whatever works.” 

2. When in doubt, get a trusted adult. The DepEd encouraged parents and guardians to train kids to communicate with them about the things they saw online. This way, they will not hesitate to call their attention when they are confronted with “matters that make them feel uncomfortable, coerced, or unsafe.”

Bernice, 43, a mother of three boys advised, “It helps if you do not taint your discussions with hate-filled or judgmental comments. Even if you think that some sites are not worth your kids’ time, you have to be very level-headed when you talk to them about it. For instance, you can say, ‘That site may look fun, but it’s not really giving you anything useful. Do not spend too much time looking at their videos.’ Or you can tell them, ‘Please do not go to that site anymore. It is full of fake news.'”

3. Don’t trust people right away. If kids are allowed to have social media accounts, they should be  cautioned against talking to strangers. Kids have the tendency to befriend anyone who greets them, compliments them, or expresses approval over what they post through likes or emojis. Of course, this doesn’t mean these people are all genuinely nice. As much as possible, parents must supervise the interactions that their kids have with their online friends.

“My son is just nine and I allow him to go on Facebook mostly to connect with my parents,” shared Janet, 47. “I make it a point to go through his friends’ list and ask him who’s who. I’ll probably be less guarded once he turns 15. I also lecture him about proper online behavior all the time.” 

4. Do not feed the trolls. Kids should be taught to ignore trolls. If they see something bad, they should just scroll past it or go offline.

“It’s not healthy for kids to get involved in these heated exchanges online,” said Olive, 31, mother of an eight-year-old girl. “I admit I once saw my child getting worked up over a video of a man declaring that he didn’t like cats and wanted to destroy them all. I told her, ‘Kapag nakita mo na bad guy or nakaka-sad, close browser agad.’ Pero after that, mas nakatutok na rin ako sa kanya when she uses the tablet or my laptop.”

5. Don’t fight the things that help you. As much as parents and guardians want to be in control of kids’ online experience, some questionable content gets past them from time to time. They should then explain to their kids that this is why added help, such as Google WiFi’s Security Features, is needed.

“Parents used to hide their Internet modems at home just to control their kids’ online activities,” recalled PLDT SVP and Head of Consumer Business Development Oscar Reyes Jr. “Now, with Google WiFi powered by PLDT Home, parents can be sure that their kids are safe and secured online.”

Google WiFi has a filtering feature so parents can restrict access to inappropriate sites and content. They can simply adjust settings so they can better manage their kids’ online activities.

Richard, 36, a father of three, said, “I consider it insurance against my kids accidentally seeing things that are disturbing or things that are meant for adults only. My five-year-old is so crafty that there have been some close calls before.”

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