The prevalence of kids and teens unfettered access to technology can create potential risks for them regarding sexual abuse. Technology creates opportunities for kids to communicate privately with everyone from friends to strangers, and perpetrators can use technology to interact with potential victims. Technology can also be a great tool to enhance our lives. But where’s the balance?

Here are four strategies you can use to help your kids use technology responsibly and protect them from the risks it presents:

01

Don’t give your kids unrestricted access.

There should be some rules and boundaries. Make sure that devices have passcodes and passwords. Also, you might want to set time limits for things like computer use or have kids give you their phone at night. There are lots of tools you can use to enforce rules. Many routers allow you to make the internet unavailable to certain devices during certain times, and you could consider using DNS filtering to make the internet safer. Setting boundaries helps keep kids safe and encourages overall well-being. A Princeton study found that kids who communicate mostly online experience more loneliness and depression.
02

Monitor what’s happening and safeguard private information.

Technology safety experts Lisa Strohman and Melissa Westendorf point out that you wouldn’t let your kids wander into strangers’ homes, so you shouldn’t let them wander around the internet unsupervised. Try to keep tabs on where they go and who they interact with. There are many monitoring tools available that can empower you to keep your kids safe. Also, children, especially teens, often don’t understand the danger of posting personal information online. Teach them about privacy and what should and shouldn’t be public.
03

Give kids a say.

Technology is important to kids—many teens say it’s the primary way they communicate with friends. Setting strict rules without getting input from your kids can backfire. Have a conversation where you explain how important their well-being is to you and make a plan together to keep them safe. If your kids have a say in the rules, they’ll be more likely to follow them. And you’re fostering the good habit of making them responsible for their actions.
04

Set up rules now.

Don’t wait for a problem to arise before you set some rules for technology use. It might seem hard to get things started, but you want to be proactive rather than reactive. In the long run, it’s better to never have to deal with your child receiving (or sending!) a sexually inappropriate text rather than figuring out what to do after it happens.
It’s hard fighting the misuse and overuse of technology in our kids’ lives, but technology doesn’t need to be a bad thing. Help your child use technology safely—reduce the risk of sexual abuse and increase access to information and communication in positive and productive ways.

Watch and Chat

Watch this Kid Chats video with your kids then start a conversation about staying safe with technology.

References:
1. Strohman, L. K., & Westendorf, M. J. (2015). Unplug: Raising Kids in a Technology Addicted World. United States: Lulu Publishing Services.

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