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What are the dangers of using the internet for kids?

This blog post discusses ten of the top risks and threats children face while using the internet.  There are a wide range of dangers, including security and privacy issues, social problems for people that children may know in real life as well as strangers, and health concerns that can arise from internet usage.  Parents of children of all ages should be concerned about internet safety, but this piece focuses on younger children.

But firstly, it’s important to note that the internet provides many benefits to its users.  Society has access to an unprecedented amount of information, and certainly benefits from allowing huge numbers of people to connect across the globe.  However, using the internet certainly comes with its fair share of risks.  These risks are amplified for children who don’t know how to navigate the web safely.  As a parent, you should be aware of these risks so you can better protect your children from them and ensure they have positive and safe experiences online.

If you’re charged with any kind of a crime involving children, certainly hiring a top criminal defense lawyer is the key to your ability to move on with your life.  Child abuse and exploitation is certainly the type of crime that could lead to serious criminal charges. Next, we’ll provide you a list of ten of the top dangers of the internet for children.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is an unfortunately common experience for children who use the internet, and for teenagers in particular. Between instant communications like texting, social media platforms, and chat rooms, there are many ways your child can be bullied online by people they know in real life, as well as complete strangers.  Approximately 59% of teenagers report that they’ve been harassed or bullied online.

What is cyberbullying?  The concept is relatively straightforward.  Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs over digital devices like cell phones, computer, and tablets.  Using these devices, cyberbullying occurs through SMS, texts, applications, or via other social media platforms, forums, or gaming.  The consistency among these platforms is they allow people to view, participate in, or share content.  Finally, cyberbullying frequently includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone else.  Sometimes is involves sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.

While this behavior is generally not criminal, sometimes cyberbullying takes extreme forms, culminating in things like swatting.  On the more minor end, if the harassment is more minor, it could lead to issues like criminal disorderly conduct.

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Mental health concerns

Technology isn’t always beneficial for your mental health. Children are especially vulnerable to these risks, such as internet addiction, and their associated and real-world consequences, like anxiety and depression.

Over the past few years, the study of the correlation between excessive internet use and mental disorders has grown.  The term internet addiction (IA) was coined in a 1998 study, and was defined as an impulse control disorder which does not involve an intoxicant.  IA is a psychological dependence on the internet.  IA does not differentiate between the type or activities that occur in the internet, but simply focuses on the use itself.  The new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) listed internet addiction as a recognized disorder.  Diagnoses of IA focuses on poor planning abilities, tolerance, impairment of control, and excessive online time.

Physical health concerns

Similarly, spending time online can affect your child’s physical health too. It can cause or contribute to myriad issues, such as strained/blurred vision, neck and back pain, and high blood pressure. One study found that the more time people spend online, the more likely they have to have or complain of certain health issues.

Less time active means fewer calories burned.  And fewer calories burned certainly means weight gained.  Obesity is on the rise, especially in developing countries, connected to various issues including deviations in the physical patters of adolescents.  In other words, where physical activity is being replaced by computer games, watching television, and surfing the internet, we see an increase in childhood obesity.

Inappropriate content

The internet is full of images, videos, and information that is graphic, sexual, or inappropriate for children to view. Even with features such as safe search, parental controls, and content filters, children frequently encounter harmful content.  Finally, those controls don’t work if the child is more familiar with the internet than his or her guardian.

Unfortunately, children as young as 8 and 9 years old frequently encounter inappropriate content online.  There are a few important negative consequences that those children could experience later in life:

  1. Early sex.  Children exposed to sexual content in the media are more likely to have sex earlier in life. Frequently the media normalized early sexual experimentation.  It portrays sex as casual, unprotected, and consequence-free.  This certainly encourages sexual activity long before children are emotionally, socially, or intellectually ready.
  2. High risk sex.  This wraps into early sex.  Unfortunately, children who have sex prior to the age of 13 years.  These children are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, engage in frequent intercourse, have unprotected sex, and use drugs or alcohol before sex.
  3. Sex, love, and relationship addictions.  In one study of sex addicts, researchers found 90 percent of men and 77 percent of women reported pornography as a factor in their addiction.  Along with the widespread availability of pornography on the internet, children could be encouraged to develop these addictions.
  4. Sexual violence.  The simple idea here is that sometimes pornography includes exposure to violent, anti-social content.  The exposure to these materials can cause children to believe this is normal.  Normalizing sexual violence makes it more like the child will commit, or be victimized in, sexually violent scenarios.

Predators

Unfortunately, there are many adults who use the internet to prey upon and target children. Just as children should be wary of strangers in real life who may cause them harm, they need to be cautious of these people when using the internet.  When an individual may simply indicate he or she is interested in something harmless, their true intent may not be clear until it’s too late.

Frequently, online predators use technology to target children, even though it a serious, significant crime that carries incredible consequences.  Using a computer to communicate with a child frequently amplifies the penalties associated with such conduct.  That being said, these crimes still regularly occur.

Damaged reputations

Your child may accidentally send a message or post a status update that’s embarrassing, damaging to their reputation, or that they later regret. Materials put online remain there forever.  Sometimes those materials are impossible to delete. Ensure your child understands the permanence of the internet and is mindful of the things they share online.

A study by AVG in 2014 found that 1 in 3 children has regrets about something they did online prior to turning 16.  This is an incredible number, especially considering the fact that once materials end up online, they’re nearly impossible to erase completely.

Online scams

Between phishing attempts and catfishing, there is no end to the ways that people attempt to scam others using the internet. Children may easily fall for these scams, especially if they don’t know what to look out for; be sure to teach your child about common scams and what they can do to avoid them.

Identity theft

Identity theft is a huge issue online, as the internet has provided thieves with more ways than ever to steal private identifying information. Children are among the most common targets for identity theft because of their clean records, so you should always be on the lookout for warning signs that your own child has been targeted.

Identity theft is obviously a serious problem.  Certain materials, like a child’s social security number, will never be changed.  This exposes the child to lifelong issues based upon the brach of information exposed while they were a child.  This can certainly lead to other longterm problems, like damaged credit.

Comprising private information

Similarly, children may share or compromise the safety of private information without realizing the dangers of doing so. Make sure your child knows that they should never give out sensitive information such as their full name, address, passwords, or contact information.

Cybersecurity issues

Cybersecurity is a huge issue for all internet users, with an increase in the number, sophistication, and frequency of cyberattacks. Children may accidentally or easily compromise the security of your devices or network, so be sure to follow cybersecurity best practices (such as using anti-virus software, updating passwords regularly, and upgrading software as needed) to protect your child, as well as yourself.

There are many dangers of the internet for children.  If you’re accused of a crime in connection to this, contact a criminal defense lawyer.

There are many positive and negative impacts on children who use the internet.  Of the dangers of the internet for children, not all of them are the result of criminal conduct.  For example, a child getting fat isn’t criminal.  But other things, like convincing a child to leave the state, could lead to serious criminal charges.

If you face a criminal accusation, we suggest you hire a top criminal defense attorney to fight your case.  Criminal charges, especially those involving children, have serious consequences that could lead to time in prison.  They’ll certainly impact how you live the rest of your life.

Finally, if you have questions regarding any criminal charge involving children and the internet, contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C. at (414) 270-0202.