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Make sure you know what teenagers are doing online. Share the fun stuff with them and make sure they are armed to deal with the difficult stuff.
Children and young people can have great online experiences! The internet often gives another, deeper dimension to their social contacts, creativity and relaxation. But parents also worry. There are drawbacks, as there are to everything in life. There are indeed risks but we can teach our children to deal with them.
Chances are your child(ren) spend(s) a lot of time online. Make sure you know what they are doing online. Focus on the fun stuff but make sure you know what to do if your child encounters problems online. Find out about a number of cyber trends in this document, how they affect young people, and what you and your teenager can do to deal with them. Content created with the support of Child Focus
What is “sexting”?
Sexting = creating, receiving, sending and sharing sexually explicit images (photos or videos) and messages via a smartphone, tablet or other digital media.
For teenagers it is often a way to experiment with their sexuality. There is nothing wrong in that, as long as it happens within a trusted relationship, the images are made with the person in question's permission and they are not shared. If the images are shared with others without permission, sexting becomes a problem.
What is grooming?
The process whereby an adult makes online contact with a minor and manipulates him/her with a view to sexual contact is called 'grooming'. Groomers are very cunning. They try to build a trusting relationship with the child by showing interest, giving compliments and then gradually moving on to sexually explicit questions and actions. Grooming can lead to sexual violence both online (e.g. via webcam, chat messages, mail, etc.) and offline (via a physical encounter). In addition, the groomer may create or spread images that make the child a victim again. The perpetrator tries to limit his own risk by revealing as little as possible about himself and encouraging the child to conceal their chat friendship under the pretext that it is "our little secret".Source: Child Focus
What is sextortion?
In sextortion or sexual extortion, victims make friends online with the perpetrator, who often pretends to be a peer, but in reality, is a criminal. After a while the conversations take a sexual turn and the criminal persuades the victim to send intimate images of himself/herself. They threaten to make the images public if the victim does not quickly provide new images or money. Sextortion is punishable by law and involves both fraud and extortion.Source: Child Focus
What is cyberbullying?
There are many forms of cyberbullying. Cyberharassment or cyberviolence involves the deliberate, prolonged and malicious use of words or images online to harm someone's well-being. Research has shown that cyberbullying in children occurs most often at the end of primary school and the beginning of secondary school and spans all teenage years. It is important to be aware of this.Source: Child Focus
What if my child becomes a victim of sexting gone wrong, grooming, sextortion or cyberbullying?
- Even though it is very upsetting for you, try to stay calm. Have a calm and open conversation with your child. Continue to support your child.
- Do not judge your child. Someone else committed a crime, your child is not to blame.
- Do not respond to bullying messages or threats.
- Collect all the evidence you can find (screenshots, chat conversations, e-mail, bank details in case of sextortion, etc.).
- Report anything you want taken offline on the website or social media platform in question.
- Call Child Focus on 116 000, 24/7.
- Your child can find help and support from peers at www.cybersquad.be
The videos of challenges often spread quickly simply because everyone shares the videos with their friends. Young people often participate because they are curious or just for fun. Some participate for the thrill of going beyond their own limits, others join in because their friends are doing it. Challenges can be comical and fun. Doing something out of your comfort zone or something your friends wouldn't dare to do is like a shot of adrenaline. But what if these challenges become dangerous? What if someone feels pressured by the group? It is important to make children and young people resilient and to make them think critically about the things that cross their path. Teach your child to think about the following points:
- Follow your gut feeling: if you feel uncomfortable or pressured, don't do it.
- Always think before you take part in a challenge. What can the consequences be?
- If a challenge is harmless and fun, it can be great. Enjoy it!
- If a challenge is dangerous, don't do it. You're not going to risk your life for a stupid challenge that everyone will have forgotten about the next day, are you?
- Do other people appear in your video? Ask them if they are OK with you sharing it online.
How to deal with the fear that your reputation could be damaged overnight?
- Explain to your teenager that he or she is living in an age where everything they do or say is visible to everyone as soon as it is posted online. Think carefully before you post something.
- Don't post just anything: discuss with your child how important it is to respect other people's privacy, and to not reveal everything about him/herself. Can everyone see this post? Will I stand behind it later?
- Don't make it worse than it is but remind your child of the complex situations he/she can sometimes get into, both online and offline.
- Nothing is final and irreparable: a person's online reputation has highs and lows all the time. What is true today is not necessarily true tomorrow.
Online privacy is important. Teach young people how to deal with their privacy and other people's.
- Privacy starts with yourself: think about what you put online and what not. Do not share too much personal information with the general public. Consider whether you will feel the same about this post or photo in a few years' time.
- Let technology help you: regularly check your privacy settings and set them properly or adjust them where necessary; make sure you have good passwords that you do not share with others.
- Guard other people's privacy as well: do not share things from or about others without asking their permission first.
The Internet in general and social networking sites in particular are the ideal place to talk and communicate with others. And sometimes for young people to get to know new people. In itself, there is nothing wrong with this, but there are of course risks involved. When making a new online contact you can never be 100% sure who the person is who is hiding behind an account or chat name. Teach your child to deal with this wisely:
- Tell them to remain cautious about what they share with someone they have only met online. It is important that they don't reveal too many personal details or secrets right away.
- Emphasise that your child should never do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- If your child wants to meet someone they met online, make sure they meet them in a busy public place and bring someone along if necessary. Also, teach your son or daughter to talk to someone they trust about these kinds of dates.
- Teach your child not to turn on the webcam for everyone.