Children spend a significant part of their spare time online. They have the right to use digital media and upload content. It is, however, the adults’ responsibility to safeguard children’s rights also over digital media and make sure their internet use is safe.
The internet is full of useful and important information but nowadays also increasingly fake material and disinformation that is virtually impossible to differentiate from the real and true. Nowadays, you cannot take what you see at face value. This, however, is particularly difficult for a child who does not have sufficient information to scrutinize the information available online or to question it. It pays off to practice media literacy and critical scrutiny of online contents as part of a child’s everyday digital media use. It is important to teach children that all that seems true and real online, is in fact not.
What to share?
For a child, it may be unfathomable how easily uploaded personal details can end up in the wrong hands and how laborious it is to get material off the internet once it is there. It is important to have a proper talk with a child about what kind of images to share, and about how to protect one’s privacy online.
Children come across inappropriate material considering their developmental stage in the course of their everyday digital media use regrettably often. For example, sexualized imagery over the internet offers them not only distorted information but also a false model of what kind of imagery to post themselves. It is rather common among adolescents to share sexual images with someone they are dating. It is important to remind them that sharing such images always carries a risk of these images spreading uncontrollably.
Grooming can occur everywhere over the internet
Grooming is a phenomenon in which an adult with a sexual aim contacts a child, creates rapport and conditions in which it is possible to engage in sexual exploitation. Children may be approached in this way on any platform, anywhere over the social media, or games.
An adult aiming at creating contact with a child with this purpose may act in many ways. He or she may research the child’s sharing history concerning, for example, hobbies and plan in detail how to attract the child’s attention. These perpetrators often target several children simultaneously.
Such perpetrator uses a social online platform, social media or a gaming platform, to make contact. The child is then steered towards a private instant messenger service where the risk of being caught is lower. Conversations may be sexual to begin with, or they may become so incrementally. The perpetrator may engage in distortion, blackmail or threats with violence also during the first contact with a child.
Be Safe Online
Make sure your child understands that when it comes to the internet, there is no telling who the other person really is. The child needs to understand that even strangers may ask them things that seem funny, or request images that make them uneasy. Ask the child whether he or she has ever received strange or confusing messages. Tell the child that people they meet online may sometimes be something entirely different to what they seem at the beginning.
However, it is good to remember that most children are safe online. The possible risks should be discussed with a child because conversation, prior knowledge and guidance equip the child with tools with which to act in a frightening and confusing situation. Safe communication and interaction between a child and an adult involving regular check-up on how they are doing over digital media is the best child protection.
For more instructions on online safety and problem situations, please visit: turvallisestiverkossa.fi (in Finnish)
How would you respond, if a child opened up about sexual harassment? Practice with a YLE chatbot. (in Finnish)
Save the Children Finland’s DeepFakeChallenge campaign increases awareness among children and adolescents of fake online contents and reminds them to think twice, what they share online.