It’s part of nearly everyone’s childhood experience: we learn about things like “stranger danger” and how we should always be cautious around adults we don’t already know.
Kids generally have a good sense of who is safe and who might pose a threat in the real world, but these signals are not as reliable as entering the digital world. Predators online are extremely deceptive, and new tactics must be taught and applied.
Even if you do all the right things as a parent to help your kids navigate the real world safely, there may be some gaps in your game plan regarding the digital environment.
We are eager to help you make sense of the current situation online. In this article, we’ll give you the know-how to educate your children properly about avoiding strangers online.
We’re also going to clue you into the most powerful technology to protect your growing family as they experience the online world, promoting a balanced and safe atmosphere at home for all.
Strangers Online – Top Concerns for Parents
Before we explore some helpful ways to teach your kids about dealing with strangers online, let’s look at some of the main concerns for parents in the current era of the internet.
Predators occupy all corners of the web these days and use many different tactics to lure or attack children in real life.
Strangers online have the advantage of anonymity, and can disguise themselves in chat rooms, video games, and social media, getting kids to reveal information about themselves or even set up hazardous meetings in the real world.
You will see that most of our educational points include info about privacy, exiting conversations tactfully, not falling for traps, and avoiding dangerous scenarios in the first place.
These are all important factors in maintaining digital distance from predators in the online space, which can quickly lead to consequences in physical reality.
Cyberbullying and Emotional Harm
While keeping kids physically safe is a top priority for parents everywhere, we need to acknowledge that young people are vulnerable to cyberbullying and other forms of emotional damage from strangers online.
Kids of any age can find themselves in stressful situations online where they feel under attack or singled out, even if there is no physical threat present.
Parents must acknowledge the reality of these experiences online from the perspectives of young people who are still coming to grips with their place in the world and on the internet.
Fraud and Home Security Threats
With smart home technology bridging new gaps between the digital and physical worlds, parents must recognize the vulnerabilities of a more interconnected security ecosystem.
Young children need to understand the implications of their actions and how they can possibly impact other people in their families.
Many bad actors online are now looking for ways to use kids as the “weak point in the chain” to access adults’ bank accounts, identity info, or even gain access into homes via network-powered security systems.
As consumer and home tech becomes more dependent on network connectivity, the stakes grow higher for parents as they must teach kids to duck dangerous characters online.
Techniques for Teaching Kids About Strangers Online
These concerns cover a lot of ground, and parents might need some help to educate children about dealing with strangers in an online setting.
Here are 10 ways to give kids the info they need concisely, effectively.
1. Explain the Basics of Online Chatting
The first goal for parents is to draw similarities between the digital and physical world, explaining how these two environments are closely related and interconnected.
Children should understand that their behavior online will impact what happens in real life and vice versa. They will intuitively understand that strangers online are to be dealt with the same way as they’ve been taught previously.
2. Run Through Scenarios
Parents can get key lesson points across to kids by creating imaginary scenarios and what should be done when confronted with unwanted attention from strangers online.
For example, parents may ask kids the proper response to a request for pictures or just information like age, gender, and location.
Parents should craft custom scenarios based on the types of apps and environments their kids use and give them a toolkit of possible responses and actions to navigate away safely.
3. Stay Close to Friends
Just as kids are taught to stick by their friends on the playground and in public, they should be reminded to keep these same policies when navigating situations with new people and new friends online.
This applies mainly to parts of the social aspect of online experiences like chatrooms, message boards, and games, but it also makes sense in the context of network building and using everyday tools like email.
The ground rules are simple enough and should be followed without exception: if you don’t already know the person in real life, don’t engage with them online in any way.
4. Establishing Boundaries
Creating a long list of do’s and don’ts is a useful, interactive exercise that parents and kids can do together and learn many key lessons along the way.
This gives kids a chance to ask all the questions they may not have felt comfortable asking before and helps parents understand where children are in their understanding of responsibilities online.
Parents should also share their own concerns with kids and be sure to explain that they are both on the same team since this helps build trust early on.
5. Recognize Red Flags
The more readily kids can recognize red flags online, the more confident they will be in handling themselves maturely in the face of danger and navigating their way to safety.
Red flags can be anything from anonymous and unrecognized user names to strange requests for images or information from unexpected sources.
Kids should be able to pinpoint concerning behaviors or patterns and know what to do in various situations.
6. Teach Exit Strategies
One of the most important lessons for kids is stepping away from online interaction, even if they feel pressured to stay and engage.
Parents should teach kids about tactics that online predators can use to convince kids to reveal information and offer different options for getting out of a jam online.
Kids need to learn not to feel bad or rude for leaving conversations abruptly if they feel threatened or uncomfortable.
7. Learn About Digital Footprints
It’s never too early for kids to learn this crucial lesson: whatever happens online, stays online, even if you think it has been deleted or scrubbed from the web.
The sooner kids come to terms with this reality, the better, and it will help them be more cautious with how they navigate the internet with friends, anonymous users, and anyone else.
8. Limiting Access and Screen Time
In general, the less time spent online, the lower the chance of an incident with strangers.
Since parents can’t manually monitor behavior 24/7, simply limiting access to certain apps and sites is the best course of action for protection.
Parents may want to suspend internet access altogether at other points, like dinner or bedtime, and encourage kids to seek other forms of relaxation or entertainment. The strongest parental controls routers come standard with these capabilities and many more.
9. Set Examples as Adults
Kids follow the examples set by adults in their lives, so parents need to act accordingly and practice what they preach.
Even if kids and adults spend time differently online, parents can set the tone by encouraging real-life activities and bringing the family together in ways that don’t involve screens.
10. Keep an Open Dialogue Going
The most important lesson here is teaching kids the many ways that online predators can find their ways into various spaces online, even if it appears to be kid-friendly and safe.
Part of this is speaking openly and honestly with kids about what – and who – they encounter online, even if it brings up some difficult topics.
With an ongoing dialogue about their experiences and parental controls software to set limits, families are well protected against the threats of dangerous elements online.
Stay Vigilant Against Online Predators
While most kids can safely navigate online environments without negative experiences with strangers, parents need to stay ahead of the curve in terms of policies, education, and proactive tactics against the worst elements of the internet.
The education tips we offered in today’s article are a good starting point for any family stepping into the online space, but that’s only the beginning!
Maintain a strong defense on all fronts, including security and parental controls technology to keep your family safe in every regard.