There are two major contact risks kids face online: inappropriate communication and cyberbullying.
Tell your kids to come to you right away if they feel uncomfortable or threatened online. Only eight percent of teens who have been bullied online have told their parents, so make sure to reassure them that you’ll “have their back” and not take away their digital devices or make them leave their social networks.
Get them ready to deal with cyberbullying before it happens by giving them the MediaSmarts tipsheet What to Do if Someone is Mean to You Online and going through the key points:
• Don’t fight back
• Save the evidence
• Talk to someone about it
• Report it to the site where it’s happening or to the police if it’s making your child feel scared; making it hard for them to go to school or do things they enjoy; if they are being physically threatened; or if someone is threatening to publish something that would hurt or humiliate them.
You should also make sure they’ve chosen good privacy settings and know how to “Mute” somebody they don’t want contacting them:
- To learn about privacy settings, see this article: https://support.wattpad.com/hc/en-us/articles/208111096-Account-Privacy
- To learn how to “Mute” another user, see this article: https://support.wattpad.com/hc/en-us/articles/203133434
While many people imagine those who want to exploit children as older men who masquerade as children or teens, research shows that they don’t usually try to hide their identity. What they do instead is target young people they think are vulnerable and, once they’ve made contact, give them lots of attention, usually making it clear they’re interested in a romantic relationship.
Activities that have been shown not to increase risk to sexual exploitation are: using social networking sites; using email or texting; and participating in computer games or online communities (like Wattpad)!
Here are some signs your teen might be at risk:
- They spent a lot of time online alone
- They have been looking for (or receiving) pornography or sexual photos
- They have gotten email, gifts or packages from someone you don’t know
- They spend time in anonymous online spaces
- They send personal information to people they only know online
- They often talk about sex online
- They use the Internet to harass or embarrass other people
The best way to prepare your kids to deal with this is to warn them that there are people online who target teens to engage in sexual conversations, and make sure they understand why relationships between teens and adults are never a good idea.
Teens get a lot of their ideas about relationships from media, so make sure you're familiar with what they're watching, playing and listening to and be ready to talk about gender stereotypes and the ways that romantic relationships are depicted.