When it comes to internet safety in general, and internet safety for kids in particular, we’re talking about an issue that everyone should be concerned about. Whether you have kids or not, now is the time where we as a society have to take a stand and decide what kind of online environment we want the next generation to grow up in.
Will it be one where kids are exposed to incredible learning tools, amazing opportunities that we never had, and the implements necessary to continuously change the world for the better?
Or, will kids be exposed to online toxicity, threats, bullying and worse…
In this article, we’ll explore internet safety for kids, and pinpoint a particular area where small changes can have a massive impact.
Internet Safety For Kids: Everyone’s Concern
Growing up as a kid today is very different from the world most adults grew up in. There are pressures that never existed before – such as how you look on social media or being contacted over messaging platforms by people you’ve never met.
Most of this is challenging to deal with, but kids are used to it in general. Anyone who’s seen a 4-year old swiping through Youtube knows that this generation is completely tech-savvy.
There is a dark side to this, one that kids just aren’t equipped to handle. This is the world of online toxicity, of predators and bullies.
Take the case of 14-year old Joey. He was approached by someone through Xbox Live chat. The family was watching TV when a notification popped up from Xbox showing a new “friend” with the name “SassyBetsy.”
While they thought nothing of it at the time, Joey’s parents Misty and Chris Sloan were suddenly dealt a reality check: Joey innocently showed them messages from this person requesting photos and suggesting websites with adult content.
Luckily, Joey’s parents picked this up, thanks to the open communication they had with their son. In too many other cases, parents aren’t as lucky, and kids are left to deal with these situations alone.
Kids should not have to be the ones dealing with these kinds of pressures. Especially today, where the technology is available to combat these types of situations, it is inexcusable that we as a society are still allowing this to happen.
So what can we do? Where can we as citizens, as parents, as internet users make a difference?
Who Can Make A Difference With Internet Safety For Kids
The first step is in identifying who and where a difference can be made. The following are essential when it comes to ensuring the internet is a safe space – or as safe as possible – for kids.
First and foremost, parents – and by extension, educators of all types – have a huge role to play when it comes to internet safety for kids.
- Being aware of what is out there and available to kids
- Knowing which channels, platforms, apps and games your child is using
- Speaking to your kids about internet safety
- Researching the latest trends
- Adding moderation and technology tools such as filtering
- Keeping up an open channel of communication and a safe space so that kids can feel the topic can be addressed at any time in a non-threatening manner
John F. Kennedy, in a quote attributed to Edmund Burke, famously said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
When it comes to internet safety for kids, this could not be truer.
It is incumbent upon all of us to call out online toxicity wherever we see it. This includes reporting toxicity and bullying on social media, gaming platforms, and messaging apps.
Messaging and Social Apps
These apps themselves, while enabling an incredible amount of connection and genuine communication, are often the environment where threats to kids’ internet safety take place.
This could be negative or “shaming” comments on a social media post; bullying in private groups; or, what’s often most dangerous, is when gaming conversations get taken “privately” to messaging apps.
Obviously these messaging and social apps have an important role to play when it comes to preventing abuse. On the flip side, they’re also facing calls to remove controls due to freedom of speech issues.
What’s clear to everyone however is when it comes to kids specifically, there can be no compromise regarding internet safety.
Gaming platforms pose a challenge for two key reasons.
One, they are spaces where adults and kids come together, often anonymously, in a highly charged emotional environment.
Two, many gaming platforms have an inbuilt messaging platform that can overflow with toxicity, bullying and sometimes worse – such as “grooming” by sexual predators.
These measures are a huge step in the right direction. There is still an extremely long way ahead, and gaming platforms will have a huge role to play in integrating technologies to combat this threat.
Hosting providers are the key to stopping online toxicity. They are the portal through which much of today’s internet traffic flows. This is the critical point: if online safety for kids can be assured at the hosting provider level, everything downstream will be a lot safer, cleaner and more positive.
Providers and similar types of hosting and continuity companies are under pressure. Cloudflare, for example, has been battling to distance itself from issues like child pornography and hate speech “hiding” under its protection.
While Cloudflare itself is dedicated to a safer internet, this struggle highlights the magnitude and difficulty of the battle ahead.
Hosting and continuity providers have an outsize role to play. And we as internet users have to have high expectations when it comes to the level of protection we expect from our hosting providers.
There’s A L1ght At The End of The Tunnel
What’s common across all the different stakeholders mentioned, is that technology is central to combatting this problem and ensuring a safe internet for kids.
Technology and internet safety are what drive us at L1ght. We provide hosting providers, ISPs, gaming platforms and social and messaging apps with the technology to combat online toxicity, prevent bullying, and make the internet a safe space for kids.
A place of incredible learning tools, amazing opportunities that we never had, and the implements necessary to continuously change the world for the better.