Usually, whenever most of us conjure up an image of a rebellious child; a few things come to mind.
Maybe you get a picture of a kid stealing his parent’s car to take a joy ride with his friends and partners in defiance.
Or possibly you get an image of the teenage girl sneaking out the window to run off with that scruffy boy who looks like every other scruffy looking boy in town.
“Oh my goodness, look dear,” some parents will say, “His pants are sagging. What’s wrong with these kids today?” And some adults say these things while conveniently forgetting their own fashion statements of their younger days.
I mean, do you remember some of those God-awful striped bellbottoms and butterfly collars people used to wear? Some would say they would rather have a kid sag his pants anyday. Well, as long as they pull them up the very moment that adulthood hits.
Up until recently, a kid’s level of rebellion could easily be gauged by what you saw them do, wear or say, whether it be breaking curfew, messing up in school or being disrespectful in their speech.
Rebellion goes digital
But as many people know, the art of youthful rebellion has gone digital and although a kid may appear to do all of the right things, as far as you're able to see, what they're doing on their computer or smartphone could be a whole different story.
This is particularly true in the late night hours when parents go to sleep, as 53% of children ages 10 to 15 are on Facebook after 10 p.m., and 23% are on after midnight, according to recent findings, leaving many parents clueless as to just what type of Internet behaviors their children are up to--and not knowing could make all the difference between your child falling victim to an Internet crime or being able to elude one.
According to statistics released in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 29% of Internet sex crimes among children were initiated on a social networking site and 26% of those crimes began when predators saw pictures of the victim on those sites.
And social networking sites were used in over 50% of sex-related Internet crimes against teens and children.
Nothing new, really
Let’s face it, the topic of children and Internet safety is nothing new, in fact, these kinds of statistics have been floating around the news for quite some time, but perhaps shockingly, many parents still aren’t getting the message and through the years, many have given up and become complacent about what their kids are viewing online.
Of course it’s possible that the sheer vastness of the Internet causes many parents to feel overwhelmed and even helpless at times, as it’s truly hard to monitor what a child is doing when their handheld devices are with them 24/7, but parents need to step up their efforts, experts say.
According to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, just 52% of parents supervise their child’s Internet use and once a child reaches the age of 14, a whopping 71% of parents said they stop supervising their children's online activity altogether.
This is particularly troubling since 72% of the Internet crimes that lead to missing children involve kids 15 years of age or older.
In addition, the report goes on to say that most children admit to their parents being in the dark when it comes to their Internet use and while children are conducting common searches, using everyday non-offensive words, they can easily stumble upon sexually explicit chatrooms that often times do very little to hide themselves from easy access.
And unfortunately, online destinations like chatrooms, adult social groups and social media pages have very thin borders between them, so a predator can easily move from one page to the next and checkout whatever photos or personal information that children post on their social network pages.
What to do
Ward Leber, who’s the CEO of the Child Safety Network said that children often post photos on Facebook and release small clues of personal information without even knowing it.
For example, a child may be mindful of not sharing personal info, but they often fail by maybe posting a photo of playing a sport, while wearing a uniform with their school's name on it.
And many times, they’ll post a profile picture in front of their house, street sign or in front a popular local attraction, which of course should be forbidden by parents, since predators can use the smallest piece of information to track a person down.
“Make sure you're looking at the background of a photograph and not just what’s in the foreground,” said Leber in an informational video on child Internet safety. “Because a lot of times people will use that information to find you, or they’ll know where you hang out.”
Most experts agree that all computers in the home should be kept centrally, so parents can watch all the Internet going-ons among their children, and parents can’t just rely on what they currently know about computers and handheld devices, they should constantly do research and stay abreast of all the latest digital trends and online activities.
Furthermore, it’s all about limits when it comes to child Internet use, say experts, which may sound easier said than done, but often times you might have to play the bad guy and actually take a child’s smartphone away after a certain point of the day. And it shouldn’t’ matter if the child is 10 years old or 16, as all children need to be managed and pointed in the right direction.
Parents will also have to feel less guilty about invading their child’s privacy, and know all of their passwords and settings.
This will allow you to conduct random checks on their profile pages, so you can catch and remove anything that may be harmful to them, because many times a child’s Internet errors has everything to do with their naivety rather than them trying to be disobedient.
Lastly, experts say that parents should know each and every time their children post a photo onto their social network page, and they should first ask your permission before doing so, because, sure, it may be hard to monitor everything your child does on the Internet, but easiness is overrated, right?
Especially when it comes to the safety and the protection of your children.