There is no denying that the internet has been a big part of our lives. But it can be a double-edged sword. The following tips can help you and your children to get the best out of it:
1. Do not divulge your personal information online
Do not reveal information such as your identification number, bank details, home address, as well as phone numbers to strangers or online acquaintances. In addition, do not upload intimate or explicit pictures of yourself. Possession of explicit content is a chargeable offence. Thus, it is important to educate children on the consequences.
2. Provide a safe space for your children to confide in you
Children need guidance while learning to navigate this big space. Thus, refrain from scolding or punishing them when you encounter undesirable behaviours. Having an open mind to discuss these things assures children that they can turn to you whenever they feel unsafe. This allows you to accurately assess what they are doing online before any trouble escalates.
3. Install software blockers
Software blockers help prevent and minimise children’s exposure to inappropriate or explicit content online. Installing such parental controls can safeguard their safety especially if they are not too well acquainted with online platforms.
4. Adopt an age-appropriate privacy
Our children and youths are growing by the day. While we want to protect them, it is important to adjust our parenting strategies and limits according to age. There is a thin line between protection and invasion of privacy. If your children are in their late teens, they may not be agreeable with you going through their text messages. At the end of the day, we must get them to understand that we are protecting them because we love them.
5. Overcome pro-harm content
Over the years, there have been pro-harm challenges and live-streaming of self-harm or dangerous behaviours online. While we want to normalise mental health issues, we do not want to normalise such content online. Here are some dos and don’ts to help your children navigate these issues:
• Do not like or share content that encourages harm or suicide. Doing so helps these posts or messages to go viral, which increases their permanency on the internet.
• Do not downplay the impact of suicide.
• Do not post graphic details (such as method, location, etc.) of a suicide or any related attempt.
• Do inform a trusted adult if they come across any such behaviour online.
6. Impart language and online etiquette
Refrain from using judgemental phrases such as “attention-seeking”, “loser”, “selfish”, or “you are such a coward” on personal stories relating to suicide. Suicide is a complex and multi-faceted issue. What we see online might be the tip of the iceberg. There may be underlying causes perpetuating their emotional difficulties. Instead, we can:
• Share stories on hope and recovery
• Share resources and avenues where people can seek help (e.g. counselling hotlines, etc.)
• Help others understand that suicide is preventable and treatment is possible too.
• Use neutral and inclusive words. Refrain from using labels such as “depressed”, “mentally ill”, or “psychotic” when referring to an affected individual.
If you need to speak with an expert, get in touch with TOUCH Cyber Wellness here or call the TOUCHline at 1800 377 2252 (Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm).
TOUCH Cyber Wellness (TCW) is a pioneer and leading non-profit agency that champions cyber wellness and media literacy education in Singapore. Since 2001, TCW has reached more than 320 schools and one million youths, parents, educators and counsellors through its education, advocacy and intervention efforts.