As parents, we are constantly searching for ways to keep our children safe as they grow up, especially when it comes to technology. The internet can be a great way for kids to find connection and create meaningful online friendships with people globally. Nonetheless, there are also dangers that come along with cyber communication.
In today's post, we want to focus on how you can help your children foster a secure online friendship while mitigating all the risks. We will cover the safety considerations and behaviors you should encourage in your child's online friendships. Plus, we will give tips on how to identify any potential causes of concern or warning signs.
Online Friendships: 6 Safety Tips
With children spending more time online, the safety of their virtual friendships becomes increasingly important. While there are risks associated with developing online relationships, such as cyberbullying and inappropriate content, by teaching kids to be safe and aware online it is possible for them to have a positive experience with their digital social connections.
So, yes, online friendships are safe as long as you take the right measures and educate your kiddo on how to use the Internet to make friends safely. But, what “measures” should you be taking? Let us break it down to you:
1. Talk to them about online etiquette
Teaching kids about online etiquette is an important and beneficial part of digitally preparing a generation that is growing up with more access to technology than ever before.
Without guidance, kids may be exposed to unsafe people that can have life-long negative emotional and mental effects. That’s why teaching fundamental values like being respectful, honest, and patient is fundamental before they make friends. Open communication with them helps parents not only create boundaries, but also role model appropriate online behaviors.
2. Discuss the benefits and risks of making friendships online
Online friendships can have many positive aspects such as broadening a child’s social network, serving as a tool for overcoming shyness, and even aiding in developing safe boundary-setting skills.
On the other hand, these connections can bring serious risks such as cyberbullying, exploitation by predators, or even interference with offline relationships.
Taking the time to talk about both sides of online friendships is key in helping kids assess their activities on social media and ensure they interact responsibly and safely with those around them.
3. Discuss the signs of an unhealthy/harmful friendships
In a world where technology and social media use are becoming increasingly prevalent in kids' lives, these discussions can help ensure that they are able to identify any potential problems before it is too late.
Children may not have the awareness or capabilities to quickly recognize red flags that indicate an online friendship has begun to or can potentially become unhealthy or damaging. Not only should parents make sure their children are aware of these warning signs, but they should also make sure that others are aware as well in order to better detect the signs.
Some red flags of harmful or unhealthy friendships are:
- Asking for personal information such as address, bank information, school name, etc.
- Asking for inappropriate or private pictures
- Harassment and bullying
- Uploading any type of personal information without consent
4. Teach them how to report any bullying or other negative behavior encountered
It's vital that children understand the risks of online interactions and that they know who to turn to for help. This can protect them from dangers and instill self-defense skills they can use everywhere. Plus, it empowers them to recognize bad behavior, make safe choices, and take it upon themselves to speak up.
Understanding online dangers helps children understand their rights and makes them aware of the consequences of engaging in unacceptable behaviors. Additionally, it can help them be a voice for those who might not be able to report it for themselves. Not only does teaching kids about this make them more aware, but it also shows bullies that there are consequences, which helps in building a more inclusive and safe online environment for all.
5. Monitor their activity
Encouraging children to make online friendships is a great way to expand their social circles, build relationships and access learning opportunities. However, it's equally important to ensure that your kids are staying safe while interacting with strangers through the internet.
Parents should closely monitor their child's online activity because without appropriate monitoring, these interactions can quickly become dangerous. Making sure you know with whom they’re communicating, what websites they're visiting and what apps they're downloading or just getting parental controls software programs are all ways you can protect your child while also allowing them space to explore.
Keeping up to date with regular reviews of their device history and messages, along with setting healthy boundaries around social media use such as screen time limits, will provide assurance that your kid is safe when making new friends online.
6. Enroll them in an online social group
If you want your kiddo to have an online friendship, either because they’re shy or have any disorder, like social anxiety or autism, an online social group is a great option.
In this type of group, they can meet kiddos from all around the world in a safe and controlled environment. Additionally, most groups offer fun and learning activities and even teach them about social skills and how to develop them.
So, there’s actually a way in which your kiddos can make meaningful friendships online, and it’s through online social groups. There are many out there, so you just need to choose the best one!
In Boo’s Battalion, we have an online social squad full of amazing kiddos that meet once a week to interact and learn from each other. We conduct a complete evaluation on kiddos and parents before they enter the group, so we can make sure everyone is safe and sound. So, if you’re looking for a fun and friendly group to enroll your kiddo in, you’ve come to the right place! Click here to enroll today!