Digital Safety: Swimming with Sharks

The Internet… Social Media… Apps… Posts… Friends… Worldwide… Overwhelming…

ARGHHH… Kids are so savvy on the Internet… How do I keep them safe when I don’t have a clue what they are doing???  Where do I start? How do I watch what they are accessing? How do I balance respecting their privacy, building trust and independence while keeping them safe???

Sufficiently discouraged? Lol… Don’t be. That’s why we have these talks! Understand me; Cyber Safety is a very real, very important concern, but there are things we can do to keep our children safe.

First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this blog. The first thing we as adults can do to keep the young people in our lives safe is to be aware. Increase your knowledge and understanding. Acknowledging an issue exists instead of ignoring it and hoping everything will be ok is really important, and I commend you for it.

Cyber Safety is a huge topic.  Often one thing leads to another.  This series of blogs will focus on some of the biggest concerns for parents and guardians.  Topics will include Cyber-bullying, Sexting, and Online Luring.  Remember, if there is anything you would like more information on, please email me: sandi@thedragonflycentre.ca.  I can respond to you personally, or, as I used to tell the students in my classes- if you have a question, chances are there is someone else with the same question. I can write something and post it so more people can access the information.  My goal is to present real information and stats but always leave you empowered and positive.

On that note, here are some stats regarding children and youth and technology:

  • 59% of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying
  • Most common types of cyberbullying include:
  • Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for reporting online sexual exploitation of children, has seen a 62% increase in reports of teens being sextorted over the past six months (since March 2021), with males, ages 15-17 being the biggest target.

The reality is that there always have been and always will be people out there who prey on others and who manipulate and hurt others with no regard to anyone else other than themselves and what they “want”. And to make it more difficult, more often than not, these people look like everyone else- they don’t have a sign around their neck announcing their motives and goals. They are invisible predators who are skilled in disarming our defenses without us even realizing it. Before we or our children even know it, we are involved in a situation that is overwhelming and we have no idea how to deal with it.

Think of it this way… you and your family are on a wonderful tropical holiday. The beach is covered with warm, white, soft sand. The sun is shining; there is a soft breeze blowing in the palm trees above. You and your partner are sitting on your lounge chairs enjoying a beverage. It is a perfect day.

Your child comes up and asks if they can go into the water. You have some choices you can make at this time.  You can say, “No- the water is dangerous.” Your child may not know how to swim. There may be sharks or other creatures that may hurt your child lurking unseen in the water. So your child sits alone on the beach and plays in the sand while all the other kids are out enjoying themselves in the ocean. You could say, “Sure, go ahead. I’ll see you later,” and let them wander into the water to do whatever they want with no supervision at all. Off they go, left to their own devices, and you continue enjoying your afternoon, oblivious to what is going on. Or, you could say, ‘Of course! Put on your life jacket and stay where I can see you. Call me if you need anything.’ and you enjoy your time on the beach as you watch your child practice swimming, laughing with other children, and having a wonderful time. Thankfully most people would allow their children to enjoy the water while the parents or caregivers quietly watch, ensuring their child stays safe.

The metaphor is pretty obvious. The ocean is the internet. Both are huge and contain all kinds of creatures. Most creatures do not pose any threat to us as humans, but some can be extremely dangerous. We know there is always the potential for one of those creatures to show up as we enter their world, but we are wary. We take swimming lessons so we have some skills in the water and won’t drown. We don’t go swimming where there is a higher risk. We pay attention to our surroundings- watching for telltale signs there may be dangers approaching. (Can you hear the theme from Jaws in your head? Duh du, duh du…) When we see something that we think may be dangerous, we leave right away.

Consider these your swimming lessons. 🙂 We want to swim in the ocean and be safe. The ocean is a big, beautiful place with all kinds of things we can see and learn and do- and so is the Internet. We just have to have the skills to recognize when things may be getting dangerous and how to get away.

As always, email me with your thoughts and ideas… Have any questions? Let me know… sandi@thedragonflycentre.com. If you need immediate support with anything regarding sexual violence, please call Dragonfly Centre at 780-812-3174 or use our online chat support on our website.

Until next time… Let’s Keep Making the Shift!

Sandi