How do we keep our children safe online?

This past week the Momo Challenge scare rose to a frenzy on social media. The hysteria actually added to the problem and made it much more of a ‘reality’ than the original made up scare.

Before we go too far here let me be clear, parents should be fearful of what their children are exposed to online– absolutely. Let’s face it there are a lot of people online that get off by frightening and causing anxiety to others. These trolls don’t care about other’s well-being.

The thing is trolls frequent all apps, games, platforms. They find some places online allows them more presence than others and certainly there are applications and games that you shouldn’t allow your children on, but unfortunately even the more conscious minded games and applications have trolls on them.

So, how do we keep your children safe online? We have to teach them survival skills. It is no different then when they are in their offline communities really, the strategies are the same. (But unfortunately online they are exposed to a much larger number of possible issues.)

  1. If they see something that freaks them out, makes them feel uncomfortable or even just gives them a little gut ‘this doesn’t feel/seem right’ feeling what can they do? Ultimately they have control of where they are online so when these things happen they can immediately block the person, report the person, logoff, talk to someone about it.
  2. If a game/app they frequent is always making them leave because of others that make them feel uncomfortable find another game/app or even a new group within the same game.
  3. Don’t feed the trolls! Never engage with a nasty person online. This only feeds them and they get worse. Always ignore and get away from them. For some games this is as simple as logging out and then logging back into a different area of the game or even going back into the game a few minutes later.

As parents and educators, it really comes down to helping our children see their own self-worth and giving them the tools to take charge of their lives. Whether they are online or offline give your child the ability to recognize their feelings and act on them.

Have open communication with them. Try having discussions that involve scenarios like the following:

  • What would you do if you got a chat message in your game from someone you don’t know asking you to hurt yourself? (…do something you weren’t comfortable with …) What if you got a chat message in your game from someone that just wanted to chat?
  • What would you do in your game when someone in your fellowship/clan etc… asked you personal questions? (What would you consider a personal question… ask them a variety of questions and talk about what ones might be ok to answer and what would not be ok.)
  • If a troll comes up to you in your game what are some things you can do?  (Might want to start with, what is a troll and what are some of the things trolls do in your game?)
  • If a friend sent you a picture that scared you or showed something that grossed you out what would you do? (If a friend got a picture that scared them what would you tell them to do?)

Make sure they know that if they want to play a new game or be on a new app they should come and talk to you about it. It really is no different then if they want to go somewhere in their offline communities. They would ask you if it is ok to meet friends at the movies, it is the same if they want to play with new friends in an online game.

If possible play these games with your children. Especially new games they want to play. You will then understand the scenarios to talk to them about. If you don’t know the games or apps your children are on go to Common Sense Media and read their reviews on them so you know what they are and if they are appropriate for your child.

The key is open communication and keeping informed. For more information about viral youtube challenges and what parents can do check out this post on Common Sense Media. Remember these challenges, urban legends, Internet scares, and trolls will come and go- the real solution to keeping our kids safe is giving them the strategies to take on these challenges by understanding their own self-worth. Help them take charge of themselves and give them someone they can talk to about real life challenges they face.

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