The internet is a space that is constantly changing and being on it is unavoidable in American culture. Especially with virtual learning, children are relying on the web more and more, and parents must stay up to date on the dangers the online world poses.
As a current college student, when I was a kid my parents taught me the basic internet safety rules: to not visit bad sites, to not talk to strangers, and to never use my real name online. They did not warn against how people could compile my innocent messages to track my location or why I shouldn’t post inappropriate photos online. Afterall, why would I snap a photo of my young self, get it developed, scan it into the computer, and post it on nonexistent social media sites? These rules were enough to protect me growing up, but despite being only a decade later, do little good on the modern internet.
Unfortunately, current parents who did not grow up alongside the web may be under the delusion that my parent’s advice is still sufficient in protecting their children online. While my browsing experience on the family desktop could be closely monitored back then, now the average age of children with smartphones that provide unlimited access to the internet is just ten. Setting parental controls can help block major inappropriate content like porn sites, but what about the sexual jokes streamers say in their Minecraft let’s plays? What about graphic recordings of a man committing suicide being spammed on supossivly safe apps like Tik Tok with no age restriction required to view?
What happens when your child asks to read harmless My Little Pony fanfiction and inevitably finds explicit pony erotica? Or how posting how pretty the snow looks on their back porch allows stalkers to locate your child? You don’t have to reveal your name to be doxxed anymore.
Pedophiles can easily single a child out on message boards and privately DM them. Your children may know not to post nudes of themselves, but what about them twerking while repeating they are only 14, as former YouTube creator Austin Jones asked — and received — from his young fans? A ten-year-old may find these requests weird, but probably won’t understand the sexual implications. These cases of pedophiles grooming children over the internet are more common than you think, and easier than ever before with the amount of online sites to reach children available.
The internet offers a great source for knowledge and personal growth, but it is not a playground. It is not enough for a parent to install parental controls and tell their kid to “stay safe” when what is safe is constantly changing. It may be “cringy,” but it is a parent’s duty to stay up to date on the trends and social media their kids are on and alert them to the latest dangers as they arise. What is done on the web affects reality, and if you don’t want to be shot dead after a prank caller sends the police after you following a $1.50 dispute regarding “Call of Duty” — you must pay attention!
Charlene Pepiot is a junior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her @email@example.com.