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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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