According to the International Communication Union (ITU), in 2020, 71% of the world’s youth (aged 15 to 24 years old) were using the Internet, compared with 57% of the other age groups. On a global scale, young people were thus 1.24 times more likely to be online than the rest of the population.

The research results confirm what we have known for a long time. The generation of today's children and teens is immersed in technology. It is hardly surprising since the internet and smartphones have surrounded them from the earliest moments of their lives. Technology has also become an essential part of their education, and the pandemic increased this trend.

What are children doing online?

According to Statista, between May 2020 and April 2021, content consumption among children and teenagers in the US was as follows: over 44% was spent on audio and video content. Video sites such as YouTube or TikTok are popular among young people. Also, the older the child, the greater the interest in streaming services instead of traditional television. About 22% of internet activity of children and adolescents was communication, and only 13.76% was video games. About 4% of children and teenagers look for news on the internet. The remaining 2% of the activity is related to the so-called "other" category, of which approximately 0.5% is adult content.

It doesn’t look so bad. So why do we often hear about the dangers lurking online for our children? Is it all exaggerated and is there nothing to worry about, or should you keep your finger on the pulse? Let’s look at the most common dangers and challenges that new technologies pose to kids and consider how we can protect our children or at least support them.

Problem: Phishing.

Phishing is a widespread scamming method in which the scammer uses malicious links or attempts to extort data by using other people or institutions and asking, for example, to change your password.

Solution: Talk to your child about not reading messages from strangers, and make sure they understand not to click on the links contained in those messages. Ask your child to always come to you if any message, even from a friend, seems suspicious. Explain how scammers work and clarify that no platform or institution sends emails asking for a password change or access to your account. You can also set up secure passwords and two-factor authentication for your child's accounts. By the way, you can talk to your kid about the importance of data security online.

Problem: Malware.

Malware - simply speaking, it is a piece of software or code designed to infect our device, damage it, or steal data. It works in the form of links and downloads. Sometimes, malware is an unpleasant addition to applications and games. 

Solution: You won't be surprised here - talk to your child about what malware is and what problems it may cause. Set the rules: We do not click on random links. We can only download games, applications, and updates when we’re together. By the way, explain to your child what a firewall is and how an antivirus system works. If you need to learn more about the online safety topic, check out our other e-books:

10 Online Shopping Mistakes You May Regret Later.

10 Steps to Protect Your Privacy Online.

Problem: Sharing Personal Data.

Sharing private data can be almost natural for a child. Children do not assume that a person might have bad intentions. Therefore, it is your responsibility to explain to your child why private information is something that needs to be protected.

 Solution: Talk to your child and explain that personal data is not virtual. Your name, address, school address, or current location are related to real people, real places, and real threats. And just as we teach children not to talk to strangers, we need to teach them not to share private information online. Such data could fall into the hands of a scammer or someone with bad intentions. Explain this to your kid, remembering to adjust the form of speech according to the child's age. Don't scare - explain.

Problem: Sharing embarrassing content.

Children and teenagers may sometimes be tempted to post their photos and videos online. Sometimes it is content that is not embarrassing at the moment, but in a few years, it will become a source of embarrassment. In the case of teenagers, it can even be very intimate, even erotic content. So what to do about it.

Solution: Perhaps it would be best to make your child aware that the internet is forever. A published image is not lost. Use your own example for this. Ask your child to google you, and then laugh together at your old high school photos posted by your school years ago. If you are both brave enough, you can google your child later. If not, explain that before publishing a video, photo, or post, it's a good idea to ask yourself two questions: Will I be ashamed of this in 5 years? Would it be embarrassing to show it to my parents? If any of the answers is yes - don't post! Now, let's move to very intimate correspondence. Search online and find examples of kids who have suffered from disclosing such messages. Don't distrust the person your teen is dating. Just explain that sometimes the feeling can fade, and good intentions can turn bad. And there is always the risk that strangers can intercept and use the correspondence.

Problem: Cyberbullying.

Bullying is, unfortunately, a very common phenomenon. Finding a child who would survive childhood and adolescence without unpleasant experiences is increasingly difficult. Unfortunately, this type of aggressive behavior is standard on the web, and, for sure, it harms no less than physical aggression. The only difference is that cyberbullying can be almost invisible to adults. It is allowed both by classmates the kid knows from school and by total strangers - participants in online games, chats, forums, or social media.

Solution: No matter what, take care of the relationship that you have with your child. Every day, try to find at least a few minutes for a conversation without distractions, for closeness. Let your child feel that you are present. Pay attention to your child's behavior, sudden mood swings, and lack of appetite. Respond carefully and respectfully. Explain what bullying and cyberbullying are, and tell them about your experiences with these problems, if you had any. Show how you can block harmful incoming emails, messages, or the account of a bullying person. Emphasize that no one has the right to harass others. Show your child your support and encourage them never to hide cyberbullying from you.

As you can see, the internet is a world you need to know how to deal with. Because the internet is a great space, a crucial element of modern life, and an extremely dangerous place at the same time. But when it comes to children, remember that it's always a good idea to start with a conversation. No matter how old your child is. And even if your child is already deeply immersed in the online world, it is worth having such a discussion.

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Finger cross for you and your child's online safety!

Atroo Team