The internet has become a part of our everyday lives, even the younger generation. Technology offers children a wealth of knowledge and educational resources as well as social connectivity, but it also exposes them to several cybercrime risks. It can be challenging for parents to know if their child is being victimized by cybercrime. If your child uses personal devices like cell phones, tablets, or laptops outside of your view; the issue becomes even more difficult to spot. How can a parent know when there is a problem online? Understanding your child’s cyber-life begins with a conversation. Look out for the warning signs that your child is being affected by cybercrime, and open the dialogue accordingly. Here are a few tips on how to approach the subject:
Is your child hesitant to share information about online activity?
Does your child exit or change screens quickly on their computer or device when you enter the room? These warning signs are subtle but can be indicative of a larger problem. Dealing with cybercrime can be embarrassing and scary. The psychological toll that this takes may cause your child to feel they need to hide their online activity from you, especially if they feel they may be at fault. Open the door for conversation by letting your child know that you are a safe person for them to come to. If your child feels like they will get in trouble for what is happening, they are less likely to come to you. Let them know that it is okay to ask for help.
Does your child appear anxious when receiving texts, emails, or instant messages?
Has your child’s mood or behavior changed noticeably, including increased secretiveness, defensiveness, anger or depression? These warning signs could point to cyberbullying/harassment or inappropriate contact with strangers over the internet. Instead of chalking your child’s increased anxiety and defensiveness to “teen-angst”, consider if there may be a deeper underlying issue. Address your concerns about your child’s emotional state. If your child is already being defensive, it may be difficult to get them to open up. Be sure to speak from a place of concern for their well-being, rather than accusing them. Statements like, “I’ve noticed that you seem to be a little upset lately. If anything is bothering you, you can always come to me.” are a good way to introduce the subject.
If the behavior continues and your concern grows, consider asking them what types of social media/applications they are actively using. There are dozens of potential social media and chat-room apps that children and teens use today. To name a few; Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, TikTok, and Kik, etc. Ask your child about the apps they’re using and what their experience has been like with these social sharing platforms. It’s important that you understand what your child is using so that you can effectively address any cybersafety risks associated with each platform.
Does your child have difficulty sleeping at night or are they drowsy during the day?
This could indicate a couple of things; your child may be using their devices late at night, or they are under some sort of stress that is causing them to lose sleep. If your child is using their devices at night, they may feel that they need to hide their online activity from you (see sign 1). Significant changes in sleeping patterns and energy-level often point to a source of stress. Point out the behavior delicately. Consider asking your child why they feel so tired or what they think is causing them to have difficulty sleeping at night. Again, it is key that your child feels that you are a safe person for them to approach with a cybercrime concern. Cybercrime is not something that your child is equipped to deal with on their own, so the most important thing is open communication.
This blog was written by Taryn Porter, a past CSN employee.