The cyber-world is continuously evolving, and our efforts to help youth stay safe online need to keep up with the times. With growing concerns of exposure to unwanted pornographic material, sexual predators, and human trafficking, it’s important parents do not shy away from discussing serious online threats with their children.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, last year one in seven youth internet users received unwanted sexual solicitations, and one in 25 received an online sexual solicitation in which the solicitor tried to make offline contact. In addition, one in five youth saw unwanted sexual material online, and one in nine received requests for sexual material from their peers or adults, according to a recent study shared in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Perhaps the most challenging concept for youth to understand is there is no absolute privacy. Even when they share their thoughts and images one-on-one with a close friend, in a group of trusted peers, or on their private pages, all online content can be shared. It can be helpful to discuss an example from the news to demonstrate, especially when your child is in doubt.
Educating children and maintaining open lines of communication on potential dangers and how to respond is critical for their safety — online and off. Youth Digital Citizen Pledges are helpful to guide cyber-safety conversations.
As you review the pledge with your children, create a comfortable environment for questions and give concrete examples. Be prepared to clarify expectations and discuss ramifications for breaking the pledge but, most importantly, let your children know you will be there for them when they need you.
Here is a new example of a Digital Citizen Pledge that can be adjusted to meet your family’s needs:
I, ______________________________, understand the expectations of my online actions and promise to:
- Only connect with people I know in real life.
- Communicate kindly.
- Respect different opinions and feelings.
- Use respectful language.
- Avoid conversations that are unkind or disrespectful.
- Only post or share appropriate photos.
- Be an upstander, and stand up to cyberbullying.
- Keep personal information private.
- Not share my login information.
- Disable location services, and never share my location.
- Choose suitable online profile names.
- Check with my parents before installing software or apps.
- Notify an adult if I
- Receive or see content that is threatening or mean.
- Feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
- Receive nude or sexual photos.
- Am asked by strangers to meet in person.
- Receive gifts or promises of gifts from strangers.
Signature and Date
For teens, this may be a good opportunity to introduce creating a positive online presence and discussing how they can strategically plan their content and engagement to help them achieve their current and future goals.
Be kind online. Share with care. Be cyber-safe.