Teens and preteens are at the heart of the social Internet interacting with others through chat, instant messaging, social networking sites, in virtual worlds and online multi-player games. It is inevitable that at an age where young people are starting to explore their sexuality offline, they will do so online in these interactive environments as well.
When most people think about sexual risk and harm on the Internet, sexual predators come to mind. Because of its sensational nature, the spectre of unscrupulous adults preying upon and sexually exploiting kids online gets a lot of media attention. Although this does happen, sensational headlines do not help us understand the nature and true extent of the problem or how to deal with it effectively.
As adults, we want to foster resilience in young people, starting when they’re young. This can be done by teaching them how to handle harassing messages or requests that make them feel uncomfortable – on the Internet or in the schoolyard – and, as they get older, by teaching them how to spot and respond to emotional manipulation. The good news is that most teens are effectively handling online requests from strangers – the bigger challenge is helping them handle sexual advances from people they know.
Teens use the Internet as much, and in similar ways, as adults. But they also often engage in risky behaviour such as downloading illegal copies of movies and music. Popular social networking sites, like Facebook, can also expose teens to a variety of security risks.
Software threats are malicious pieces of computer code and applications that can damage your computer, as well as steal your personal or financial information. For this reason, these dangerous programs are often called malware (short for “malicious software.”)
Children may be particularly at risk online because they’re not always aware of the risks associated with what they’re doing. For that reason, children need close supervision when using digital devices and also need to be taught basic cyber security skills as early as possible.
Many online threats are covered by existing civil and criminal law in Canada and other countries. In addition, many countries have specific legislation to deal with online crime. This section looks at Canadian and American laws that apply to cyber security.
Spam, online scams and frauds, identity theft and issues related to online purchases are a serious issue in the online world. Navigating the Web while avoiding these threats can be a challenging task.
For most youth, the Internet is all about socializing, and while most of these social interactions are positive, increasing numbers of kids are using the technology to intimidate and harass others – a phenomenon known as cyberbullying.
Verbal or emotional abuse is the most prevalent form of bullying online. Social bullying, another pervasive form – particularly with girls – includes social exclusion and spreading gossip and rumours.