There are many reasons why children gravitate towards the online world. Having relationships online is a huge part of modern life, we all inter-relate online these days. As parents are more aware of the dangers outside the home, we may encourage our children to play inside to alleviate our own anxieties and fears for their safety. Children are curious and will naturally want to seek and explore the space which they are in. In real life this can be dangerous but in the online world, it can be significantly more harmful because of the amount of inappropriate content that is easily accessible. Children need to feel connected to people and enjoy being around others of the same age. When children aren’t feeling emotionally connected to the world around them, they will seek solace in online worlds to alleviate their feelings of loneliness and disconnect, and also to alleviate boredom and a lack of stimulation that they might be feeling. In the days before computers, children would play outside to make friends but now, children will go online to make friends. As with all friendships, there are interpersonal dynamics that present in the group. The need to fit in. To be accepted by the group is just as important in an online group of friends as it is in real life. Consequently, if they have friends who are competing in online challenges, they are likely to feel peer pressure to partake also. Furthermore, children will push boundaries where possible. Seeking out online challenges which parents would not approve of, but their friends do, is a form of pushing boundaries. To a child, the online world might feel safe because they are accessing it from the physical safety of their home, as such they may feel lured into a false sense of security regarding the risks posed by some of these online challenges.
As parents we are also lured into a false sense of security. When our children are in the home and we know where they are, we feel that they are safe. For this generation of parents, in our childhood there wasn’t access to the dangers of the online world, therefore we aren’t equipped with that kind of knowledge from our own life experience to be able to naturally spot the dangers for our own children. It takes conscious learning to become aware of what might be a risk online for our children.
Ask yourself these questions: