In years past, my mother learned of the risky things that teenagers can get involved with was on day-time talk shows and/or different news programs. The problem with this is that by the time the behavior gets put on the spotlight on national television, it is already too late for some children. Children taking prescription drugs from the grandparents medicine cabinets, playing the choking game to get high, or even children that suffer first and second degree burns by mixing ice and salt are just some of the events that have captured the attention of the media.
Now you may look at the angel(s) that you brought into this world and think, “Not my child!” If you’re not tracking your child’s internet activity one hundred percent of the time, which is nearly impossible and improbable, then your child could be next to fall prey or victim to the following:
1. Bullying/Or Being Bullied/Harassing Behavior
If your child is into social media, like the majority of teenagers, chances are almost one hundred percent that they have bullied, been bullied by someone, or seen others being bullied. From exclusion, nice/nasty comments left on pictures, gay bashing, racism, sexism, and harassment, your child may be a victim or a victimizer. In many occasions, children who bully others have often been the targets of other bullies.
As a parent that regularly checks my daughter’s Facebook page, I have seen countless derogatory comments made towards my child and others. Once, I caught her as an offender. I immediately called her on the behavior and forced her to apologize. But the damage was done. Once you say or type those words, they are there forever and as they say, the internet never forgets.
Since children all over the world are harming themselves as they become the targets of bullying, it is imperative that you make this a number one priority. Talk to your children about bullying. Learn what your child’s school policy is on bullying. Attend parent/teacher conferences at school and become a presence there. Make surprise visits to your child’s school or catch them while they are walking to/from school. I was able to stop one girl from throwing rocks at my daughter just by showing up on her route home unannounced. The child immediately did an about face and walked off as quickly as she could. If a child knows that a parent may show up and catch them in the act, they may just leave your child alone or vice versa.
2. YouTube: Check Out What Your Child is Watching
If you’d really like to get insight on your child’s mind, check the videos that they are watching on YouTube. Despite attempts that YouTube makes to remove offending content off their site, offensive videos slip under the radar all the time. Even videos that may seem harmless to us, can be dangerous to a child. Stunt videos are extremely popular.
Videos worthy of “World Craziest Home Videos” show up on YouTube often, tantalizing your child to try the same stunt. Even if the stunt becomes a complete disaster, leading to hospitalization or even death, you can bet that there are plenty of children out there just wiling to show the rest of us how to “do it the right way”.
There is actually a new video available where a young girl is presenting the “Condom Challenge”. She inhales an elongated condom up her nose and pulls it out of her mouth. You would think that this dangerous stunt would be a one time thing. Within days, other attempts began appearing on the internet. Children are the best imitators in the world. Remember, it’s how they learn about the world around them; good and bad.
If your child is watching it on the internet, he or she could be watching it for entertainment purposes. Or they may be looking for quick internet fame. It’s imperative that you find out.
3. Researching Suicide Attempts
I write a blog dealing with suicide where I help others, especially teenagers deal with their suicidal feelings. I grew up with suicidal thoughts at the age of ten, so it is not unheard of for children that age or even younger to have thoughts of harming themselves.
I once did a post about most common suicide methods and why they frequently don’t work. Within just a short time, I received several comments from children and young adults asking which methods were better. There are actual websites out there that give exact doses of certain medications that could bring about death.
If you think that your child could be suffering from depression, please get them the help that they need. If your child has been researching suicide and suicide attempts, please take that as a sign that they may need immediate medical intervention.
4. Sending Sexual Photos/Interacting with Adults and Engaging in Sexual Behavior
The internet is one of the greatest technological inventions in human history. Even with all the wonderful information that is available on the internet, it has also given pedophiles and sexual predators an advantage in targeting children.
One day while searching Facebook, I came across a private group on Facebook that seemed targeted towards adolescents. Despite being restricted, the page showed teenagers wearing inappropriate clothing and posed in very suggestive ways. Curious to find out more, I sent an invitation but didn’t expect to get an answer back. Within a day, I was accepted to the group and was appalled at what I saw.
There were pictures of Chicago teens displaying pictures of themselves in underwear, posing in very seductive ways. Although some of the people encouraging them to post more pictures wrote in a very childish way, it was obvious that these were grown men pretending to be much younger. I immediately reported the group to Facebook and it was subsequently removed.
My daughter told me that she had been approached by this group and several more like it. The kids were encouraged to post more seductive and daring pictures just to get LIKES and THUMBS UP on their profiles. The more attention a picture received, it gave a definite boost, instant popularity, and adulation to the teen.
Children also aren’t always aware that if they are caught with pictures of other underaged children on their computers and phones, that they could be facing child pornography charges.
If your child is engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior on the internet, disconnect them immediately, remove any device that they can access the internet with, and contact the proper authorities.
5. Giving Out Too Much Personal Information
Society has certainly changed with the onslaught of social media. Now more than ever, people feel compelled to let the world know what it is that they are doing at almost every minute of the day. From Twitter to Facebook, you can let the entire world in on what you’re doing in just a few characters or less.
But from a safety standpoint, this just isn’t smart. Adults are guilty of it as well but children are more susceptible. By letting the world know what you’re doing every moment of the day, it makes you a target to possibly being a victim of a crime.
If I was a predator living in your neighborhood, and knew that your child just stepped out the door to go to school, I now know just how and when I’m going to come after your kid. If I wanted to burglarize your house for that new flat screen TV and Playstation 3 that you just bought them (which they posted on Twitter for the world), I’d wait for your child to post in 140 characters or less just when I should show up.
I know that children are going to do this, regardless of safety issues, but talk to your children about who they are “befriending” online. Make sure they keep their personal information locked and private. Let them know that if they don’t know a person in “real life”, then it isn’t a good idea to befriend them. Also make sure that your child puts their accurate age in their profile. It lets adults know that they are dealing with a minor if they come into contact with your child.
If your child has access to a computer, it’s imperative that you know what your child is doing. It is a great tool when used properly but when it’s not, it can put your child in danger. Do the right thing and get downright nosy. It could mean life or death, literally.