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The internet and minors

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Now that the internet is available in almost every corner of the country, thanks to the untiring effort of our ISPs and mobile providers, it may be worth visiting and understanding some high-risk activities that new users may be exposed to.

As a parent, or someone who is responsible for the welfare of minors – it is essential that you do your homework, so that you are aware of the risks involved.

Firstly, pornography. Currently, pornographic searches daily exceed 25 percent of all internet searches. In other words, there are almost 70 million pornographic search requests every day.

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More than 30 percent of average users received unwanted pornographic exposure by the simple virtue of being connected to the internet. Web porn is a massive business, and the producers of such services have no qualms about age restrictions.

Minors viewing or being exposed to porn – knowingly or otherwise – and be seriously affected in terms of their emotional and moral growth. Have a look at the numerous studies currently available on the internet, on exactly how damaging such exposure is to children.

Sexual predators are common on the internet. Trusting young people end up interacting with virtual strangers who can make themselves out to whatever they want.

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About one in seven kids have been sexually solicited online –and may well end up in danger if their guardians are not involved in assessing their activity online, or not interested in finding out what they are doing.

Too many parents seem to be relieved that their kids are sitting quietly in their rooms on the internet – and do not even think to check what they are doing.

Sexual predators select and migrate to where children like to chat and hang out. Make it your business to visit these sites together with your child.

Cyber bullying is usually perpetrated by children on each other. This is different from bullying at school, where teachers can act to filter out such activity. They cannot do this online.

Cyber bullying consists of spreading lies about children, sending hateful messages and even death threats, and making nasty comments to attempt to ruin their reputations socially, in some cases posting humiliating videos of kids they dislike.

Most times children do not like sharing their experiences with their parents. But be very aware of the demeanour of your child following an internet session.

If they do tell you, try and ignore it and block the bully – but in the event of actual physical threats, you should seriously consider calling the police.

This type of bullying has now been extended to adults with the posting of what is now called “revenge porn”. Here – adults choose to post sexually explicit videos and pictures of their ex partners, without their permission, as an act of revenge.

There are websites dedicated only to this activity and as soon as responsible authorities bring them down, new ones spring up.

The impact of such activity is the damage to the reputation of the ex-partner, and in man y cases can lead to loss of jobs, actual stalking (where personal contact information is also posted online) and in some cases, suicide attempts.

With minors, especially teen age girls, there seems to be growing pressure to upstage each other with the posting of selfie pics or videos aimed at boosting their cyber reputations.

This often leads to seminude pictures being posted by the user themselves. Remember, once posted, this is now available online for anyone to view and can be copied and saved anywhere.

Deleting such a post is almost impossible, and can affect them in the future when it comes to college admissions or employment opportunities.

How do we deal with such situations? The first very important aspect is to ensure that your child or minor is educated about the risks of such behaviour. It is important that you have an honest relationship with them and can share your thoughts and concerns – more importantly – so can they. Most importantly, know what activities and websites they are accessing daily. This is essential to their protection. More on parental control via their computers in a later column.

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