Educating our Children, rather than blindsiding them

Are we educating our children, or blindsiding them to the real world?

It’s a Friday night, and all is reasonably quiet in the household.  We are binge watching Black Mirror and it’s that episode about the people who get caught out for child pornography. (sorry for the spoiler!)  It’s a disturbing episode, as are most of the Black Mirror sci-fi/futuristic genre that it is. 

I glance down at my phone as a Facebook notification pops up.  Its Gerald so I quickly click through and as an image slides up on my Samsung, I almost choke.  It’s a very provocative photo of Carly, our 14-year-old, and the message from Gerald reads, “Dude, are you aware of this?”

This could be anyone of us.  Thankfully, in this case, my little story is ficticious.  But, I’ve heard it a thousand times before.  Kids are curious.  Kids are experimental.  And, most kids want acceptance, even if it means sending a rather “adult-like” risqué image of themselves to a wanna-be boyfriend they are trying to impress.

In this case, Carly’s spontaneous photo was broadcast over Facebook, and more than likely would be on YouTube in seconds too, as part of a montage of other similar images, of other similar aged girls.

Educating our children

Yes, we talk and talk to our children about the dangers of strangers on the street.  But, do are we educating our children on the cyber dangers?  It is a foreign world to most of us, and generally we don’t get exposed ourselves to these dangers.  But, knowing what the dangers are and making our kids cyber savvy is crucial in today’s day and age.

What do the stats show?

The Mail and Guardian reports that 4.5 million people have access to the internet in South Africa.  While we are not the largest group, in comparison to other countries, we are ranked third when it comes to the level of cyber threat activity.  It could be a lack of education, and it could all be sorted out in the schools.  Educating children should start at home, but can be amplified in the school system too.

What are the risks for our kids?

Having a simple photo broadcast across various media can be damaging enough, but when it goes viral it can have long lasting and permanent damage for them.

Life, as a kid, can be made very difficult.  Other kids can be cruel, and when it comes to cyberbullying, they are downright harsh.

Cruel to be kind

While it won’t be pretty, often the best prevention is revealing the possible outcomes.  Educating our children on just what can happen when they are exposed to those stranger dangers out there, and how it can mess up their lives, and even the lives of their family.

Setting up parental control software is your next port of call.  While you may like to think you can trust your kids, and have that attitude, “My child will never do that,” rather be over-cautious.

A good rule of thumb

You would have said it more than once to your kids, “Do what I say, not what I do.”  And, in online terms, you could change that up a bit and say, “If you wouldn’t do it face-to-face, then don’t do it online.”

Sure, there will be some precocious, “push-the-boundaries” kind of kids that will do most anything face-to-face, but it does dissuade them 90% of the time.

In addition to this, reiterate that once it’s online, it will always be online.  Posts and videos can be deleted, but the internet is that fast, that within seconds a few millions have seen it.  And, especially, when it something risqué and “naughty”.

Let’s get behind educating children on all the ins and outs of cyber dangers.