Many children growing up in the digital age are familiar with computers and the internet from an early age. They are dubbed “digital natives.” There are many advantages to children growing up in the digital age, but there are also some dangers. Learn about how you can protect your children during this exciting, yet challenging, time.

Advantages of Raising Children in a Digital Age

Children who have grown up during the digital age have many advantages over previous generations, including:

Access to a Wealth of Information

Digital natives do not know what it was like to have a question pop up in their heads and have to look in an encyclopedia, dictionary, or other reference book to answer it. Today, the solution to this problem is simple: Google it. If you don’t know something, you can look it up in a matter of seconds with the technology readily available at your fingertips. This ready access to information allows children to research more effectively and become more informed citizens.

Enhanced Language Skills

Information online can help enhance children’s language skills. Children can capably handle tablets and other electronic devices at younger and younger ages. They can access content they can read at their reading level and watch videos that can enhance their language skills. Additionally, newer technology allows machines to adapt to better meet the user where he or she is, which provides customized learning opportunities.

Interactive is Better Than Passive

Actively engaging users is better than passively addressing them, according to content marketing and SEO expert Neil Patel. When users can interact with content, they are more engaged. Interaction may take the form of answering questions, making decisions, and exploring different scenarios. Interaction requires users to use higher level skills to think through problems and apply information.

Threats of Raising Children in a Digital Age

While children may be able to access more information, the digital age makes children themselves more accessible. Some of the threats that children face include:

Stranger Danger

The statistics regarding online predators are simply frightening: more than 500,000 predators are online every day. Kids ages 12 to 15 are more likely to be groomed and manipulated. 89% of all sexual advances occur in chat rooms or messaging. In 27% of exploitation cases, predators requested children send pictures of themselves. Over 50% of the victims of online sexual exploitation involve children in seventh to ninth grade.

Because of these threats, parents must be diligent about who their children interact with online. They may be able to perform background checks on unknown people who contact their children or others who may pose a threat.

Extortion and Fraud

Children may be susceptible to extortion online. One common scam is for criminals to become “friends” with a young person online, perhaps by posing as a child or using a fake identity. The criminal then gets the child to send photos or perform certain acts over the child’s webcam. The predator may then try to use these photographs or video against the minor, such as threatening to send them to the child’s friends or teachers if the child does not perform actions in real life or send other salacious materials.

Stolen Information

According to identity theft statistics, 5% of all types of information which was compromised were school or university records. With this information, criminals may steal a child’s social security number and ruin their credit. Because the child has no reason to access credit while they are a minor, they may not discover this identity theft until many years later.

How Parents Can Protect Their Children Online

There are several ways that parents can protect their children online. They should teach their children at a young age about the potential dangers. Children should not share personal information about themselves and should be taught about privacy settings. Parents should be aware that nearly any electronic device – including handheld and stationary video game consoles – can connect children to the internet. Parents should check in regularly to monitor their children’s online activity.

Parents can also perform a background check on strangers they do not feel comfortable with, especially those who directly messaged their children or reached out to them unsolicited.

Proceed with Caution

Your children have greater access to information due to their digital native status. However, with this privilege there must also come responsibility. Be sure you check out anyone your child is interacting with and consider performing a background check. Most importantly, keep the lines of communication with your child open so they can tell you about any dangers that arise.

Ben is a Web Operations Executive at InfoTracer who authors guides on security, both physical and cyber, and enjoys sharing best practices with the public.