Online safety isn’t just about what happens in chat rooms. To kids, the internet is a huge and diverse place, with lots going on. Limiting kids’ online activities requires an awareness of this. Even if you can’t keep up with every new development, encourage them to talk to you about the things they’re really interested in, and make sure they’re handling them sensibly and responsibly – because, even when it’s only other kids they’re associating with online, there are all sorts of ways they can get into trouble.
Kids are particularly likely to be influenced by social crazes. You probably remember this kind of thing from your own childhood – crazes for collecting things, or for learning new dances, etc. These days, there’s a new type of craze to consider, and it revolves around internet video websites. Here kids can get together to entertain and show off to one another. Sometimes it’s just a case of being silly, but in other cases there are stunts of various kinds involved. The need that children feel to shock and to impress mean that these stunts often become more and more extreme.
Limiting kids’ online activities, when it comes to internet videos, is not just about monitoring what they do at the computer, it’s about keeping an eye on what happens when they go out with their cameras or camera-phones. As always, they’re most likely to get up to mischief with a group of friends, but there have also been cases of kids getting hurt attempting to do stunts for the camera by themselves. The particular nature of their activities can vary depending on what’s cool at the time, but risk is a common factor.
If you’re worried that your child may be getting up to this kind of thing, remember that the best laid plans of children have one vital weakness – they’re really bad at containing their excitement. Try talking to them when they’re at the computer or have just left it, to see what’s on their minds. Try to keep track of what the popular risk-taking activities are, and then you can be more prepared to protect your child.