Talking to strangers is risky online and offline because we parents can’t predict the possible intention of that person. The probability that our kids can meet mean strangers online is enormous.
Parents’ biggest nightmare and fear probably are online predators and cyberbullies that stalk their kids online, intending to hurt them.
The best way to teach children about talking to strangers online is by using the ‘stranger danger’ rule.
Our role is to educate our little ones on the importance of staying safe online and protecting their privacy. Act out different scenarios with your children, and correctly teach them about talking to strangers online along the way.
Understanding the Risks of Kids Talking to Strangers Online
Parents usually advise their kids not to take candy from a stranger in real life. So, this also applies to the digital world. You should advise your children not to accept messages and requests from strangers.
Some very bad people intend to cause harm to our children. Some of the risks of kids talking to strangers online including:
- Stealing children’s identities;
- Online predators;
Real-life examples that Involve Online Stranger Danger Incidents
One example is when a girl becomes an online friend with a person that has a perfect but fake profile. This is called catfishing. Catfishes often intend on stealing money and personal information.
Another example is when a super cool and handsome teenage boy is a basketball captain now, but in the past, there were some pictures on the net showing his belly, messy hair, and different physical look. Some mean hackers use that picture to harass and humiliate the teenager.
Furthermore, there are examples when a girl becomes an online friend with an older person pretending to be a good-looking boy.
This is the most common method online predators use to attract children and even convince them to meet offline. Studies show that about 20% of all children have had contact with an online predator online!
Many other examples are even worse and more traumatic than these. So, to prevent your children to become one of these examples, you must:
- Teach your kids about the existence of such dangers;
- Teach your kids to keep private information safe;
- Teach your kids to choose appropriate apps and content;
- Teach your kids to recognize and report inappropriate content and behaviors;
- Teach your kids to trust in family rules and have an open conversation with you;
Building a Foundation of Trust and Communication
Building a foundation of trust and communication is the key point of parenting. But you can’t expect children to trust you if you don’t trust them.
Starting from a young age, you should be patient with your children and let them know that the best way to fix a problem is by telling you about it.
Make your child know that you are the one that can help them when in danger. You must establish this connection with your child from the point they’re born.
Later on, you can use this trust to build an online family safety plan. You can start by establishing the basic rules of online safety and even act out different online scenarios with your children.
Teaching Your Child to Identify and Avoid Online Stranger Danger
If you want your children to be safe online, firstly, they must know how to identify these dangers. You can teach children how to identify online stranger danger by acting out scenarios that your children might experience online.
Also, teach your children to follow their instinct, or as many people say, follow their gut. Many online predators and scammers often try to lure in children with fake offers. You must teach children to say “no” to these offers when they feel anything suspicious about the stranger.
Setting Boundaries for Online Interaction
It’s definitely OK to set limits on your children’s online interactions. You probably don’t want your children to be talking with strangers online. So, you can set up parental control software like Google Family Link, Norton Family, and Qustodio to check who your children chat with.
If you see that your child is contacting someone that isn’t their real-life friend or relative, you can block that user with the parental control app, without checking the other messages and invading your child’s privacy.
Encouraging Your Child to Seek Help if Necessary
Children are curious, yet inexperienced. So, you should encourage them to always ask for your help when they feel uncertain about a topic. For instance, if your children find some user suspicious or dangerous, they should come to you for advice.
Also, if your child sometimes gets cyberbullied or encounters an online predator, you should be the one that comforts your child. You can build this instinct in your child even when they’re toddlers. For example, when your toddler gets a ‘boo-boo’ on their knee, you should be the one that treats it.
How to Teach Children About Online Safety
Children often act like they’re know-it-alls. So, sometimes it might be tough for you to teach them about tech-related topics like online safety.
And if you think that you’re the only one worried about your child’s online safety, you aren’t. A Kaspersky study shows that about 84% of parents worry about their children’s safety online.
Firstly, you should introduce your child to online dangers and act out different scenarios. You can teach children how to deal with things like online predators and cyberbullies along the way.
Furthermore, make your children know that even when they make a mistake, you are there for them and eager to help. And last but not least, set up parental control apps as a backup plan, if you see that your children don’t tell you about their online experiences.
Our children are our blessing, and we must do everything to protect them.
What is online stranger danger?
It’s just like real-life stranger danger, but online. There are many strangers online that want to hurt our cutie pies, just like there are dangerous strangers in the real world.
How can I monitor my child’s internet activity without invading their privacy?
By checking who your children message, but not what type of messages they send to their friends.
What should I do if my child has already had a negative online experience?
Teach your child to learn from his/her mistakes. If your child feels depressed from the experience, then you could contact professional therapists.
How can I encourage my child to trust their instincts and say “no” to suspicious online behavior?
You can install a habit to say “no” in your children by acting out different stranger danger scenarios at home.