WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The internet can be a dangerous and harmful experience for kids if they’re not careful. It’s why it’s so important to work with your children to set-up good habits when it comes to online safety.
According to the website stopbullying.gov, 15 percent of children ages 12 to 18 say they were bullied online or by text during the school year. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller turned to a Michigan-based child psychologist to explain the problem and how to prevent it.
The reality in 2020 is that children and their devices go hand in hand. With that high tech access comes high anxiety for many parents which really requires a conversation with your kids.
“Number one, what is safe and unsafe behavior online,” said Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D.
The Grand Rapids, Michigan Holistic Child Psychologist spoke via Skype. Dr. Beurkens said even if you’re limiting children’s screen time, children need to limit what they share in cyberspace and with whom they share it.
“Everything from, you know, not giving out your personal information, your location, your birth date, private information about yourself to not talking to people that you don’t know,” she said.
The restrictions also include children not sharing photos of themself with strangers.
Concerns expand to cyberbullying especially when kids reach the middle and high school years. Dr. Beurkens says they often may be embarrassed or scared if they’re being cyberbullied.
“We’re not talking about it enough with them for them to know that this is something that happens. It happens to lots of kids and you need to speak up about it so they tend to keep it to themselves which increases the risk then of depression, anxiety, other kinds of things that can happen,” Dr. Beurkens said.
Dr. Beurkens recommends using technology to benefit your children with apps like Qustodio to set time limits and content restrictions, and monitor things your kids are doing online.
“And these are really important tools for parents to have to help instill healthier habits for their kids with devices,” said Dr. Beurkens.
The underlying message from Dr. Beurkens is don’t be scared, be prepared when it comes to child online safety.