For five-months now, COVID-19 has been at large, while for the past two-months, the world has been forced (arguably for the first time), to self-quarantine and engage in “social distancing” behavior. Consequently, with almost every school, business, and restaurant shut down, except those declared by the state to be “essential”, the very real feelings of cabin fever, loneliness, and a straight up lack of motivation (for some) have found their way into our homes.
In what seems to be a “game-changer” for every industry, our world has gone completely digital—something I never thought I’d see. But for parents, this is an unusually stressful time, not only because their children are home and not in school, but rather, because they are online and have been stripped of everything they know—which can lead to depression.
The world may be “over” being stuck at home and resorting to online video conferencing platforms and living vicariously through the quintessentially boring lives of their family, friends, and colleagues through social media, but there are three groups that definitely are thriving right now—app developers, hackers, and predators.
Immersing ourselves with black mirrors from every direction, we’re spending more time online than I think any of us ever wanted. While we may be “over it”, this time is an absolute goldmine for online predators and hackers.
And now is the time, more than ever, to not only closely monitor what your children are doing online, but to properly educate them on the true nature of the internet’s dark side. Perhaps they might even be old enough to binge watch Black Mirror on Netflix to help get that education started.
So, what can you as a parent do?
#1—Do Not Take Away Your Child’s Device—Educate!
The worst thing you can do at this time is educate by inadvertently punishing your child. Taking away his or her electronic device simply to prevent them from potentially coming across these dangers is not the solution.
This is their only connection to the outside world right now, as it is yours. Like you, they have also been stripped from everything they know, with no rational explanation. There’s only so many toys and indoor activities they can do before they act like a cat doing its ‘zoomies’ for what seems like an endless period.
Instead, having and maintaining an open line of communication teaches your child about trust and accountability at an early age. Sitting down and talking with your child about online dangers—potentially even showing them what one looks like, could make all the difference in the world.
Children are much more visual learners today, with technologies like tablets and iPads, smartphones, and of course A.I.-embedded games online that educational institutions have begun to implement in its classrooms.
#2—Catfishing and Monitoring Your Child’s Online Activities
With social media, comes great responsibility. With the federal and state governments telling us to engage in and abide by “social distancing” and stay-at-home orders, people are yearning for relationships.
Enter catfishing. ‘Catfishing’ is the act of luring someone into either a friendly and/or romantic relationship by creating a fictional online persona. Not only is it dangerous for you as a parent to be victimized, but imagine if your child was brought into this world.
Social media is an entire world in and of itself. With the sophistication of online crimes growing by the hour, the ways in which online hackers and predators find their ways into your DMs and into your personally identifiable and financial information are endless. And whose to blame them? They know each and every one of us are online, so it’s like Black Friday for them for who knows how long.
TIP: Monitor Your Child’s Incoming ‘FRIEND REQUESTS’ and Private Messages
The world may feel disconnected, but online hackers and predators are not. Since COVID-19 has been at large, hackers are turning to Facebook to target younger individuals, through friend requests and Messenger—capitalizing off the world’s shared feelings of loneliness and cabin fever.
TIP: If You Can Keep Your Child Off Messaging Platforms, Do It
Ironically, in a time where the world feels disconnected, cybersecurity threats and online predators are more connected and engaged online than ever—and they’re catfishing from all directions.
Your children still yearn to be kids—wanting to see their friends in any way possible. It is for this reason that this drive opens your child up to a range of online threats, including child exploitation and grooming. And what a perfect time to “be your child’s newest friend online”.
Granted, your child probably shouldn’t have access to the Messenger feature of Facebook or any form of direct messaging via Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc.
There are tons of catfishes and frauds out there. Personally, I’ve received almost double the friend requests and I can assure you; they aren’t who they say they are, just off the photo and basic bio information.
Having spoken to many colleagues about this, the number of inbound friend requests has almost doubled since COVID-19 has been at large. Users have even complained about getting strange messages from individuals they’ve never met, hoping to strike up what appears to be a friendly conversation.
Word to the wise—don’t accept the requests and just hit that delete button on the message.
#3— Now More Than Ever, Cyberbullying Has Become More Prevalent
Experts say that feelings of loneliness, in-person interaction, and a lack of mentoring from teachers/parents are all likely lead to an increase in cyberbullying.
TIP: Take the Time to Observe Your Child and Their Mental Health
With over 1 million kids at home, an immense amount of time with them glues to a screen of some sort is the new norm.
As children coalescence around these black mirrors to maintain even the slightest form of communication to their friends and other groups—you as a parent or caregiver should recognize the clear signs of online bullying:
- Your child becomes uneasy, nervous, or scared to sit down with their device (computer, tablet, phone)
- A sudden and complete stop and withdrawal from social media, texting, or other forms of online communication
- Unwillingness to share information with you about their online activities and/or accounts
- Unexplained weight loss or gain—basically, monitor their eating habits
- Trouble sleeping
- Common signs of depression, sadness, anger, etc.
Depending on the age of your child, if you happen to hear even passive statements about death, suicide, drugs, or self-harm—these are all red flags that something is up and you need to stop what you are doing now and attend to them.
At the end of the day, make sure your kids are staying safe online—it doesn’t hurt to check out who they are following, who is following them, and of course the type of content they are putting out there for the world to see—literally.