Updated · Jan 29, 2023
The Internet can be a dangerous place for anyone, but kids and teenagers are a particularly vulnerable category.
From cybersecurity threats to social media, protecting kids online is a matter of awareness.
Here are the most common dangers of the internet for kids and how to safeguard against them.
Let’s dive in.
Most Common Dangers of the Internet for Kids
Let’s get into the specifics.
The internet is full of Images, words, videos, or information that are unsuitable for young people and it doesn’t take much for a child or a teenager to encounter them– intentionally or not.
A large chunk of sexually explicit images and videos are available online for free.
Children can stumble upon this type of content accidentally and even if they somehow avoid it, they can just as easily search for it on any search engine and access websites with adult content with little to no effort.
Social media is not exactly a place that’s free of graphic images and videos containing extremely violent scenes. Most platforms typically put a filter over these as a warning, but all it would take for a child to get exposed to violent content is to click the “See it anyway” option.
Children can have trouble processing the information.
Misleading or outright false information is ripe to spread when almost half the country thinks that traditional news sources cannot be trusted, which kids can easily encounter on social media and it can be especially dangerous for young people and children.
They can be tricked into taking part in unsafe challenges, led to believe medical misinformation, or be persuaded to take on distorted views.
Fake news can also damage children’s self-esteem and make them more anxious, according to a report from the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools.
Scammers are well aware that kids and young people are easy marks for scams and they know exactly what to say to them to make them consider their offer.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous online risks is online predators who use the internet to prey upon and target kids, typically in chat rooms, gaming platforms, and similar online places.
They usually use fake names and pictures and often lie about their interests and age to get close to children online. Once they believe they’re close enough, they try to lure children and teenagers into sexual conversations and sometimes, face-to-face meetings.
Phishing is an incredibly common scam tactic that tricks victims into paying money for a non-existing service or revealing sensitive information.
Most children are unlikely to fall for Nigerian princes who offer them a million dollars but they can fall for a scam that offers something they value like special features or free access to an online game.
In most cases, they trick children into downloading malware, which can be especially beguiling to children, or promise them prizes in return for something they want, like the parent's credit card information.
|You might be interested in our guide on the types of malware and how to stay safe.|
Identity theft comes in many forms and children under 18 are one of the highest affected age groups.
Young children do not understand social boundaries as well as adults and can give away personally identifiable information online, which scammers can use to steal their identity.
This can include anything from images to their home addresses, full names, social security numbers, and even family vacation plans.
If they have enough information, fraudsters can use it to take out loans or government benefits in their name.
Online games and social media platforms are today’s virtual playground, which is where bullying– or cyberbullying– happens. The difference is– there are no breaks.
Children can be ridiculed on social media and in online games about their looks, actions, and gaming skills, which can cause low self-esteem and increased stress and anxiety.
A piece of information – whether it’s real, fake, or simply too private– about a person can have irreversible effects on their reputation.
However, children rarely think long-term and are unlikely to be aware of how an embarrassing moment can affect someone’s life. Accidentally sending a message or posting a status update that’s damaging to their reputation can ruin their confidence and may leave them with long-term issues that carry over to adulthood.
Internet Activity Records That Might Haunt Them Later in Life
Once something is online, it becomes notoriously difficult to remove it – especially if it goes public.
The dangers of social media for kids also include how their current behaviour might affect their adult life.
But, for children and teenagers, in particular, it is hard to see how a party picture, a badly phrased comment, and even a joke can cast a shadow on their career or their personal life later on.
|You might be interested in: How to delete yourself from the internet?|
Excessive Internet Use
The Internet is here to stay and it’s not all bad. If used right, the almost endless supply of information can be an invaluable asset to further one’s education and career prospects.
But, spending too much time online has consequences.
Mental Health Concerns
Children who spend a large chunk of their time online are at risk for developing addictive behavior, like Problematic Internet Use (PUI), which leads to increased risks for depression.
One recent study published in BMC Psychiatry even found links between excessive internet use and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, depressive disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Physical Health Concerns
There’s a long list of side effects of spending too much time in front of the screen.
In addition to eyestrain, headaches, and neck and back pain, sitting in front of the computer for extended periods of time can cut into your child’s sleep time.
Even babies can get overstimulated by screens and the blue light they emit and miss the sleep they need.
Too much TV and computer time is also associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity because children who overuse the Internet are less likely to engage in healthy, physical play.
The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders puts gaming addiction in the same basket as substance-related addictive disorders, such as alcohol and tobacco.
Gaming in moderation can have a positive impact but excessive use turns people into gaming addicts who exhibit addictive behavior, like inability to quit and show withdrawal symptoms, like sadness and irritability.
Prevention and Protection
The first step to helping your child stay safe on the Internet is to educate yourself about Internet dangers and their consequences.
Here’s what else you can do:
Schedule Internet Time
Most children thrive on schedule and routine– as long as their parents don’t overdo it– because they allow them to feel in control of their environment and get the satisfaction of finishing their tasks on time.
Children should get a clear idea of when and how long they can be online and why that is.
Explain The Risks
With the accessibility of the Internet, it’s impossible for parents to follow everything their children are doing in the online world. The best way to prevent them from making a serious mistake and falling for scams is to educate them about the dangers.
Some of the things you can tell them is that:
- If an offer sounds too good online, then it’s probably a scam.
- If the email or text is from a stranger or seems “off,” they should not click on it.
- If someone asks for personal information, they should never provide it.
- They should never talk to strangers online or send pictures of themselves.
- They should speak openly about a problem they come across online.
Parental Control Software
Websites, apps, and games whose target audience are children and young adults often come with parental control options.
For example, the popular game Fortnite allows parents to limit who can send their children friend requests, whether they can talk to others in game, and even set rules about their texting options.
Google also has a SafeSearch option and there are child-friendly search engines like Kidtopia or Kiddle.
Finally, there are also plenty of software and hardware solutions on the market that let parents limit screen time, block unwanted web content, restrict the use of risky apps, and more.
Children and young people have a reputation for listening to their teachers more than their parents.
If you don’t believe you’re properly equipped to teach them what they need to know about the online world, you should consider enrolling them in a class or a workshop where they can learn more in-depth about the issues at hand.
You might even be able to find some government-funded programs aimed at educating children and young adults about online risks and how they can protect themselves.
The Internet is a double-edged sword. It can be an invaluable tool if used right but it also comes with risks and consequences that can be severe and life-altering– and not in a good way. That’s why it’s important to educate your children how to protect themselves and utilize tools that can shield them from lurking online dangers.
What is a major problem facing adolescents in cyberspace?
That depends on a variety of factors, but in most cases, adolescents’ biggest issue in cyberspace is that they spend too much time in it.
How do you explain the dangers of the Internet to a child?
A good way to explain online dangers to a child is to tell them that online behavior shouldn’t differ much from real life. What’s considered inappropriate in their everyday encounters is similarly inappropriate in the online world.
What is internet risk?
The possibility of encountering a dangerous or adverse situation in the online world. The most common dangers of the Internet for kids are cyberbullying, online scams, and exposure to inappropriate content.
A qualified journalist and longtime web content writer, Keelan has a passion for exploring information and learning new things. If he's not writing or pushing his own brands, you'll find him watching pro wrestling or trying not to rant about politics online.
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