As a parent or caregiver, equipping yourself with information, support, and tools is a crucial first step to keeping children safe in an increasingly digital world. Culture Reframed Founder & President Dr. Gail Dines spoke with developmental and forensic pediatrician Dr. Sharon Cooper about how kids are targeted online and what we can do to keep them safe.
“Today we have a far more prevalent and problematic form of grooming, and that is through cyberspace,” says Cooper, who evaluates and treats children who have been victims of all forms of abuse. While in the past grooming would happen in person, Cooper says Information and Communication Technology Grooming has become one of the most common means of offenders accessing children and convincing them that having a relationship is reasonable.
While children are not to be blamed for grooming, it’s important to be aware that children who have experienced adversity and children with developmental challenges may be at a higher risk of being groomed. Another risk factor is simply existing in a hypersexualized culture. According to Cooper, “A lot of our teenagers don’t understand the difference between a healthy relationship and a controlling relationship within the online world.”
So, how can we keep children safe online?
Since technology is designed to make children keep coming back, Cooper recommends resources such as apps that help caregivers intervene. For young children, Cooper suggests an app such as OurPact, which allows caregivers to schedule times for WiFi to be interrupted on kids’ devices. For older children, Cooper recommends an app with keystroke capabilities so caregivers can see what children are saying and who they are talking to, and be able to intervene if the person on the other end of the conversation is not who they say they are.
For more information about this topic, watch the full conversation below:
As a caregiver, building your knowledge about online safety allows you to help children thrive despite hypersexualized culture. Culture Reframed’s online courses for parents of tweens and teens are designed to help you navigate these conversations. Explore our free, peer-reviewed programs here.