The internet has opened up a world of possibility and information to the entire world, but with it comes a great deal of responsibility. The dangers of the internet on children are no less real than the dangerous situations they may encounter at school or at play. In fact, unless parents are proactive in terms of internet monitoring and security, the internet can pose even more danger. The danger is emotional, mental, and even physical.
Dangers range from online bullying through social networks, meeting up with sinister characters in chat rooms and forums, and the unexpected viewing of material that leaves a mark on children who, though they cannot fully understand, are impressed with mental and emotional things for which they are not ready. Children are even in danger of internet addiction.
Of all the dangers of the internet, parents are most concerned with pedophiles. While pedophiles should be a concern everywhere, the internet has opened up a new way to victimize children. Internet predators will pose as peers or as someone older who seems to understand children better than their parents.
They play online games, hang out in chat rooms, and become members of forums made specifically for kids. Luckily, many of the forums, chat rooms and online game sites are carefully monitored to protect children. However, it is not always possible to catch every person with bad intentions.
Whether parents or older friends and family members view pornography or not, internet porn has a way of sneaking up on unsuspecting viewers. Links may be “hi-jacked”, sending unsuspecting kids to porn sites. Porn is maliciously attached to downloads. Kid-friendly pages are set up and redirected to pornography. A good filtering system can help, but it cannot do it all without severely limiting access to information – even information that is suitable. Here is where parents must keep vigil.
Bullying on social networks has gotten bad enough that victimized children have gone into despair and have ended their own lives. Even if a child chooses NOT to hurt him or herself, such bullying can have long term effects on self-esteem and cause severe depression.
Internet addiction may be of the least concern (though it does cause even more exposure to other dangers on the internet), but it is dangerous to a child’s mental, social, and physical health. There are programs that can help. Parental controls are available that will not only tell you what your children are doing (and it IS your business), but also shut down their session when their allotted time expires. As children get older, such monitoring can be trickier and trickier to implement. After all, children do have homework.
Many parents make the mistake of thinking of the internet as a safe place for their child. After all, when children are on the internet, at least parents know where they are; right? The truth is that the internet is a place, or rather an infinite number of places. As such, it exposes children to a whole new world of danger.