When Facebook was launched 12 years ago, you could easily count social networking applications on one hand. Today, it has become nearly impossible to track their latest number. Now one may feel awe at the pace by which the web has grown in such a short amount of time, but it hasn’t been without any costs. As many of you would be aware, the most dangerous cost associated with World Wide Web has been cyber bullying.
The recent rise in social apps might have gone unnoticed by even the most socially online of you. This could be because of the obvious reason: you do not fit the target demography. Most apps namely Omegle, Kik, Snapchat, Chatous, Chatroulette are created specially to target the teen user base. They allow one to not only talk with people they know (friends, family) but their USP lies in allowing for strangers to connect with you. While it is true that adults too have not escaped the wrath of cyber bullying, it is even more worrying if underage children are involved.
A lot has been talked about children being bullied online but that is just one branch of cyber-bullying. There still exists lack of awareness amongst teens and their parents about sexual predators. In Pakistan, the term is considered taboo; and why I say this with confidence? Answer me this: how many times have you spoken to your teenager about the presence of online predators online who are looking to befriend them only to find a way to abuse them later?
You may think apps like Messenger and Twitter are harmless as there are several ways to monitor your child’s online presence but are you really sure you know who your teenager is talking to on their phone? While these sites and apps may offer some ‘fun’ time, an escape to mingle with other likeminded individuals, there’s more to it than meets the eye. With free features like live video and photo sharing, it is quite easy for both parties to share more than just friendly text messages. For online predators, these apps are a goldmine: with no simple method to track them, they have quite a free reign: to befriend your child, to roam about your house right under your sight without you ever finding out.
A scary prospective, but an avoidable one. Talk your child. Communication is key. While monitoring their online presence is the primary way to go about it, you must speak with your child about the dangers of the web especially when it comes to sharing sensitive and personal information over the web to another person, whether friend, family or stranger.
Please do share this with friends and family to raise awareness on this issue.