Kids are navigating a minefield when they browse the internet these days. Negligible regulation, few enforced rules, nonexistent boundaries, just an open web where kids can engage with any topic, or person, good or bad across the globe.
There are 644 Million active websites which means there are many opportunities for your children to be exposed to anything and everything online. Amazingly, yet not so surprisingly, a whopping 70% of kids hide what they do online from their parents.
Previous generations might hide a Playboy under their bed. Today’s teens have easy access to all kinds of XXX-rated imagery. They can access it anonymously, easily lie about their age and it’s free. They are being exposed to a distorted view of sexuality and images that would make a sailor blush.
You’d never let a stranger into your home, let alone your child’s bedroom, yet that’s what happens when your child uses a webcam and chats with a stranger in a video chatroom alone in their bedroom. They are a predator’s dream come true. One site, Omegle, invites your child to talk to strangers on their home page. Teaching your child not to talk to strangers is one of the first lessons in life that a parent gives their child.
Sites that Promote Cyberbullying
Some websites invite anonymous cyberbullying. On Formspring teens trade questions and comments anonymously resulting in nasty, vicious comments and rumors being posted for all to see such as, “You’re a slut! Why don’t you have braces? What’surbra size?”
Pro Anorexia Sites
Many teen girls think “skinny” is good. They want to look like the models in magazines. Some teens are visiting websites that teach teens how to be anorexic by providing tips to lose weight. One pro-ana website says “if you aren’t thin, you aren’t attractive” and “being thin is more important than being healthy.” There is a valid concern that these sites might induce eating disorders in vulnerable kids.
Some of the most popular online games teens play are MMORPGs, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game. World of Warcraft (WoW) is the top MMORPG and boasts more than 12 million players around the world. WoW has been described as addictive and, because it’s free (up to a certain level), kids can easily get sucked in to the game. One boy, who was failing school because of his addiction to WoW, had to be sent to a rehab facility to get back on track.
“Welcome to Bimbo land, the world’s most friendly Bimbos,” says the website’s home page. Cultivating the idea that girls should be attractive but empty-headed young woman, perceived as willing sex objects, is probably not what we want for our impressionable young women. Sites such as this reinforce the negative stereotypes that being beautiful and sexy is everything.
Playing online games like, “Staggy the Boy Scout Slayer” are pretty gruesome and may make your child more aggressive. According to theAmericanAcademy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “studies of children exposed to violence have shown that they can become “immune” or numb to the horror of violence, imitate the violence they see, and show more aggressive behavior.”
Facebook is a great way to connect with friends and family but friending on Facebook can be risky for kids. Many parents are rightly worried about online predators. Some predators create fake Facebook profiles and pose as a teen so they can connect with kids. Your child may think they’re chatting with a cute teenage boy, but they’re really chatting with a much older man.
Hate Group Sites
Hate groups appear online via Facebook or Twitter and are taken down once they’re found out but not before serious damage has been done.Sometimes Facebook hate groups target specific minorities. A 14 year old boy, Kenneth Weishuhn, was the subject of such a hate group for being gay. He was bullied and threatened and ultimately committed suicide as a result of this ugly, spewed hatred.
YouTube has funny videos, sports videos, and music videos. It’s a smorgasbord of all kinds of content online, good and bad. One video even encouraged the risky dare of the cinnamon challenge in which kids swallow 1 tablespoon of cinnamon within 60 seconds without any water. Poison control centers had a spike in calls because of this challenge.
Be involved and monitor where your kids are going online, what sites they’re visiting and how they’re behaving. There are 150,000 new websites daily, so you can’t rely on filters or blockers. The more you know the safer your child will be online!