As more and more children and young adults become active online, the likelihood that they will see something inappropriate online also increases. It is a fact that the internet offers wonderful prospects to people to connect with new people and learn new things, at the same time, it cannot be denied that the internet exposes children to content that is not suitable for their age. Not online inappropriate content, like, pornography, violence, gambling, sexual content, etc., children are also continuously exposed to the risk of cyberbullying and encountering online predators. The unsuitable things that children come across when online might upset and confuse them and affect what should be a healthy and knowledgeable experience. While it cannot be denied that there are children who deliberately, out of curiosity search for inappropriate content, there are others who see them accidentally either by clicking on the wrong advertisement or through an explicit pop-up ad.
What is inappropriate content for children?
Inappropriate content is any material, which is upsetting, wrong, or just wrong and not normal for children to view. Different people have different standards when it comes to inappropriate content for children. What you think as inappropriate content might not be suitable for your children or other parents. Inappropriate content includes images or information, which might upset and confuse your child. It comprises materials, which are focussed at adults, wrong information, or information that might lure your child into illegal or perilous behavior. Content on the internet is not classified into age or suitable areas and without control and regulation, a child can either accidentally or knowingly check content, which is extremely violent, sexually explicit, or unsuitable. Inappropriate content possesses a safety risk and can result in mental and emotional damage to children. It can result in behavior change in them or can result in them having nightmares. According to studies, early exposure to inappropriate content may increase the risk of a child becoming a victim of sexual violence or trying a sexual thing on another child. These problems grow when the exposure to inappropriate content is continuous and is not discussed with an adult who can help the child to understand things.
How to protect children from the inappropriate content on the internet
It is vital to develop digital literacy skills among children so they can evaluate the value and accurateness of the content they consume. Children should be aware of what they should do if they accidentally see something that upsets them. As a parent, you should talk to children about how important it is to use the internet only for appropriate things. You should make kids understand that if there is something that they are curious about they should ask about it from the parents rather than carrying a Google search. As the majority of unsuitable websites for children are not legal, it means they cannot be taken out permanently off the internet; therefore, it is up to a parent to make kids understand how to use social media sensibly, and safely. As part of having open and honest communication with the children, parents can use the internet together with the children and make it part of your family's activities. This will help in clearing all the doubts in the young minds and will help the kids to trust you more.
If your child uses a computer often then it is a good idea to place the PC in the drawing-room or some other area where the whole family can keep a check on the activities of the little one. Things can get a little tricky if your young kid or teenager uses a mobile device, as in that case, they can take their device anywhere with them, and you have no way to know what they are doing with it, especially when they are away from home. Therefore, you should avoid giving a smartphone to your kid until they are at least 8 years of age. Even after then, you should put a limit on how long the kid can use the phone and for what purpose. While dealing with teenagers, you need to be extra cautious, and your strict attitude is not going to work with them. At this point, there are huge chances that your adolescent has already come across one or the other type of inappropriate content. Viewing inappropriate content at this stage can have various negative effects and can even put them on a path that you do not want them to be on. It can be very difficult to talk to the teenagers about these matters, as unlike younger kids, teenagers tend to shut themselves up; therefore, before you start the chat you must work on building a trusty relationship. After this, you can talk with them and ensure that instead of getting half information from the internet they come to you.
Parents should also use software to block inappropriate content so that children do not accidentally consume content that may be bad for them. As parents, it is not easy to always monitor what your child is doing on their device; however, the parents need to be aware of what their children are watching online and also limit their screen time.
Banning internet for children is not the right thing to do to protect children from inappropriate content. After all, the internet has its uses and these days it is impossible for children to study without the help of the internet. The idea is not to avoid the issue, nonetheless, to approach it head-on in a way so that the children are more aware of what all they are allowed to watch and at what age. Moreover, no matter how much you try to talk to your children, the fact remains that they are kids and are curious about things. Therefore, the best solution is to use trusted software, which can filter out adult/pornography, profanity, gun-related, sexual content, gambling, and violent content. This way, the next time your child is enjoying a fun game, you do not have to worry about a window with explicit images popping up.
What Parents Can Do To Reduce These Risks
We have compiled a list of 10 items that you can easily do to reduce your children's risks.
- Place computers in a common area of the house
- Learn more about computers and the internet
- Spend time online with your kids
- Set reasonable time and usage limits
- Enable SafeSearch on the browsers
- Keep them out of online chat rooms, and do your best to reinforce the old rule, "never talk to strangers"
- No personal information given out, and no "face-to-face" meetings
- NEVER let your child upload or download photos without your permission
- Discuss the dangers of the web with your child
- Check with your Internet Service Provider for any parental controls, blocking and filtering tools they may offer
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