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Real Safety Solutions for Kids Growing up in a Virtual World

Real Safety Solutions for Kids Growing up in a Virtual World
    From dpape on flickr

    We live in a period where evolution is constant; where new technologies make their way into our lives ever so often, where online trends rise and fall and where almost everybody with access to the Internet is enthralled by the possibilities of the digital world.

    And that includes your children.

    The World Wide Web has opened up a host of possibilities for young minds. Children can turn learning into fun with the added element of exploration and discovery; connecting with interesting peers and understanding cultures from around the world is now possible like never before. Unfortunately, the net is also a landmine of risks for impressionable minds.

    There are two areas that could potentially upset children’s lives: inappropriate websites related to subjects like pornography and graphic violence, and online social networking, where all kinds of people establish and lead digital lives, including cyber bullies, scammers and sexual predators.

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    Mirror your kids’ online habits

    If you have young children or family members, it’s very important for you to understand the internet. How will you know about the dangers that Facebook poses if you’re not on it? Using the internet will help you discover the potential threats that lurk on the web. By setting up online accounts, participating in forum discussions and also mimicking your children’s online habits occasionally, could give you an insight into the what their online lives are like and how you could protect them from the dangers there.

    Besides, being an active user will give you the kind of technical prowess you need to monitor your children’s internet usage.

    Cyber Bullying, Suicide Forums, Online Grooming and other dangerous trends

    Over the last few years, online trends have changed and continue to change rapidly. From social networking to microblogging, you never know what’s going to be the next in-thing. As a busy parent, whose profession may or not involve using the internet, it will be hard for you to know what’s new out there and how it could affect your child’s life, unless you make a conscious effort to keep tabs.

    Dangerous cyber threats have emerged over the last few years with serious online consequences. Our schools have turned into battle fields with hierarchical structures, where the most popular or extroverted kids hold sway; as a result, fitting-in is top priority for most kids. These days, almost 90% of the children who are bullied at school, experience some form of online bullying by the same classmates too. In addition, unrelated cyber bullies prowl the web, pestering children to reveal passwords or battering their self-confidence. Besides, there are hundreds of online forums where unpleasant behavior is encouraged, like physical violence, eating disorders, self-harm and so on.

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    Child grooming, where sexual predators befriend children, earn their trust with the intention of abusing them, has taken an ugly online form. Most public chat rooms for young children and teenagers are frequented by predators. They will almost always lie about their age to earn the child’s trust and try to get to the most vulnerable in the group.

    Parents should join online parent networks or vigilance groups, take part in discussions with other parents on the web or subscribe to newsletters that dispense information about dangerous online trends. Staying in-tune with what’s going on, on the web, can help you watch out for signs of trouble or warn your kids about the same.

    Ask them, ‘Met anybody new on Facebook today?’

    As parents you can take the following precautions:

    • Limit the number of hours your kids spend on the internet
    • Encourage physical activities and hobbies that do not involve the computer
    • Do not permit computers in rooms of very young children
    • Watch out for signs like children switching off monitors or switching screens in your presence
    • Look out for other unrelated signs like withdrawal, unprecedented secrecy, long-distance calls to unknown numbers, calls from unknown adults and so on.

    However, there’s a limit to the amount of monitoring you can do and your monitoring efforts should be complimented with a healthy, trustworthy relationship with your child.

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    You should encourage chats about online safety, the sites your children might have visited and what they learnt from surfing the net that day or a new game they might have tried out.

    These regular conversations could keep you updated about their digital lives, which remain invisible to most parents. Just as you would ask them about their school, ask them if they met anyone new on Facebook that day. In an environment of open, healthy interaction about the internet, children may volunteer information if they have met people who are acting strange or are being bullied online.

    Is Privacy still important? You bet

    Most youngsters, especially teenagers today, are growing up in a world where there’s little value for privacy. With status updates, photo albums, blogging and other forms of online self-expression, most of them do not understand the importance of restraint. Help your children understand why privacy is important. Also, illustrate how online identities can be uncovered, addresses and phone numbers discovered, so they do not take risks on the web.

    Security software, family settings and other tools

    With the unfortunate evolution of online predators and unsuitable sites, technology has evolved too. Thankfully, parents can maintain some control over young children’s online habits with tools devised for this purpose. Family settings are available for internet use, online gaming and video viewing. With family settings, parents can control which games their children play, which movies they watch and even the duration that they can spend on specific activities like gaming or chatting.

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    Similarly, parent control software can help parents block adult sites, public chat rooms and set timers for surfing the net.

    Scammers can reach you through your kids

    Sometimes, it is not just kids but adults too who could be at risk. Ensure that your child does not have your bank details, passwords or other sensitive information. Sometimes, scammers and cheats can try to get to your finances through your kids. Help your children understand what online scams, phishing emails and identity threats are all about.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

    Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

    How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

    • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
    • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
    • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
    • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
    • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
    • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

    When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

    Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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    1. Realize You’re Not Alone

    Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

    Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

    2. Find What Inspires You

    Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

    What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

    On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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    If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

    3. Give Yourself a Break

    When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

    Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

    Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

    These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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    4. Shake up Your Routines

    Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

    Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

    When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

    5. Start with a Small Step

    Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

    Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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    Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

    On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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    Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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