For the most part, kids are fearless. And the Internet makes it easier for them to experiment and try new things than ever before. No 12-year-old can step into a real-world casino, drop a couple of bucks into a slot machine, and see what it‘s like to gamble. But they can do it online.
Unsupervised online activity gives a kid access to a world of things that they could have never experienced just a decade ago. Kids interested in drugs of all kinds can get them online. They can chat with strangers, even adults, experiment with sex, or learn how to build a bomb.
It‘s not only the vastness of online information or activities available; it‘s also the relatively private and seemingly secure way they can take place. Kids can gamble or view porn from their bedrooms. And since they don‘t recognize or believe there is a risk, the willingness to try anything increases. Understanding your kid‘s fear factor helps determine their vulnerability to cyber sharks who might lure them to places they don‘t belong.
A Microsoft Canada survey of kids ages 9 to 17, conducted by Youthography, says, “Too many children and teens still engage in risky online behavior, such as posting personal information, accessing adult sexual material, and cyber bullying.” (Rynor, 2009)
Talk to your children, understand what their ‘fear factor’ might be and have your conversations accordingly. Good kids do dumb things so be involved and help them to make the right decisions.
Bob is the co-author of Surfing Among the Cyber Sharks: Parent’s Guide to Protecting Children and Teens from Online Risk