Every parent worries about their children’s security online. As they get older we tend to grow more confident, watching the way that they handle themselves in general conversations and observing that they’re learning to assert themselves.
But online conversations, especially when they’re one-on-one, can be much more intensive, and even older children can find themselves overwhelmed. Online predators can be very proficient at dominating conversations so that children feel unable to get out of them even after they’ve started feeling uncomfortable. You need to provide them with the tools to get the space they need to think clearly and reassert themselves.
Chat room safety tips for younger children should include always staying in public spaces and never entering into private, one-to-one discussions. Older children, however, have a greater need for privacy in all aspects of their lives and cannot be expected to adhere to this rule. It is therefore important for them to know how to take breaks and how to leave conversations they’re unsure about.
Discuss with them a set of triggers which ought to make them cautious about where a conversation is going. Remind them that these triggers should still be taken seriously even if they appear to be coming from people their own age (for instance, a peer discussing kissing) because people in chat rooms are not always whom they seem to be.
Many children find it difficult to walk away from a conversation when they want to. This is because we teach them to be respectful and to listen to authority. Online predators know this and will try to use these factors to control their behaviour.
Chat room safety tips should include making sure that your children also expect people to respect them. They need to understand that a genuinely friendly person will respect their need to take breaks or to refuse to discuss a particular subject. They should understand that they have a right to their own space, and they can use that space to think twice about comments and suggestions which, in the heat of the moment, might have sounded a lot more reasonable than they really are.