The internet is amazing! It has made it easier to get information and knowledge, it has ensured connectivity in frontiers that were virtually impossible to concur, and it has offered entertainment and even unlimited storage of files and documents. Yes, like I said amazing!

But even with these amazing facts, the internet has also become a hub for faceless and nameless people to conduct their crimes given its anonymity. Many people have been affected and the worst hit have been children who are clueless of the dangers that uncontrolled internet usage can bring.

In a report that was filed by the family technology education non-profit group; Common Sense Media, teenagers are spending more than a third of their days in social media and the internet in general- nearly nine hours on average while tweens (ages between 8 and 12) average to six hours a day.

A few weeks ago, a teenager committed suicide after playing the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ which is an online game in which young people are assigned a series of challenges initially harmless but later become very dangerous and deadly. The final challenge reportedly dares the participants to win the challenge by committing suicide. The challenges were reportedly issued on social media via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Kenya recently banned the online game, which has been linked to a teen’s suicide in Nairobi.

The parents of the victim realized too late that their child was involved in the challenge.
Parents do not realize how far their children are from reality while some also do not understand the dynamics of the internet well enough to offer a helping hand or advice pertaining technology and social media tools. So, how can you protect your children from the dangers of the internet? Here are a few tips:

• Place the computer in a common room where you can easily monitor your children’s activity online. It will be difficult for internet offenders to communicate to your kids if there is an adult in the room. It will also prove difficult for them to visit inappropriate sites knowing that an adult might see them.
• Make sure you learn about the internet or at least have basic knowledge of the technology surrounding your children.
• Spend time with your children online to see which sites they often frequent. It also doesn’t hurt to check the browsing history of your children to ensure that the sites they frequent do not harm them in any way.
• Put the accounts of social media in your name and ensure that they do not arrange private chats with strangers they met online without your presence or permission. This will ensure that the environment is controlled and safe.
• Use the parental controls provided by your internet service provider. Also, be aware of the other computers that your children may be using.
• Pay special attention to the warning signs like them shutting down the computer when you enter the room, excessive use of the internet especially at night or when they are using an online account that belongs to someone else.
• Encourage educative internet use like reading books online and blogging. Reading books and blogging ensures development of language and writing skills and also their creativity.

You can get more information on how to protect your children here.

There are many dangers that children are exposed to when they interact on the internet.  Knowing your children’s internet behaviors and spending time with them when they are online, brings you one step closer to protecting them and ensuring their safety from predators. Hey, you might even learn a thing or two on how the internet works!

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