Whenever parents worry about protecting their children from online dangers they will instinctively gravitate to protecting them from potential sexual predators who are seeking to set up clandestine meetings with your child for sexual encounters. While these fears are most certainly grounded in reality, it is vital to understand that online danger is not just sexual in nature, but may also deal with harassment of different kinds.
Sometimes individuals known to your child â€“ classmates, youth group friends, neighborhood kids â€“ may use the Internet to malign your child, question her or his reputation, spread false stories that seriously impact your childâ€™s persona in the peersâ€™ eyes, and in some cases may even be harassing for political, religious, and gender specific reasons.
Similarly, threats of violence and bullying behavior is no longer limited to the cafeteria but instead has now spilled over to the online venue as well. Children are routinely bullied and threatened for monetary gain. In some cases it is simply a perverse form of enjoyment for the bully to watch your childâ€™s fearful responses. Explaining to your child that this kind of behavior is just as inappropriate – and therefore should be brought to your immediate attention â€“ as a sexual advance is vital in understanding and dealing with the online dangers your child routinely faces.
Parents will do well to deal with such outcroppings of inappropriate behavior quickly and decisively. Do not expect your child to deal alone with the goings on but instead take action by not only documenting emails and instant messages but also by reporting the behavior to online service providers, the other childâ€™s parents, and depending on the nature of the infraction even to the applicable authorities. Parental failure to take this kind of action will subtly signal to the child that in essence the behavior is ok and acceptable or conversely that there is precious little that can be done.