Virtual Friendship, Real Danger!
Date Added: 08 February 2021, 15:48

Due to Covid-19, children are now much more engaged with technology than before. Children playing outside have now moved to the virtual world. Of course, also street criminals have moved to same environment together with them … We can protect our children from dangers in the virtual world through “digital guidance”.

We are spending more time at home due to COVID-19, which has affected the whole world. In parallel, children and young people of all ages have started to spend more time in the virtual world through tablets, cellphones and computers. This situation, which many parents complain about, is not just causes children to use their time inefficiently, but also leading them to face serious threats in the virtual environment.

University of Kyrenia Faculty of Education, Guidance and Psychological Counseling Department Head Asst. Prof. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı reminds that except for online education applications children and young people are exposed to threats in the virtual world as they spend most of their spare time on the internet. Asst. Prof. Beyazsaçlı does not suggest the “banning” which is the first measure that comes to mind: “The important thing is parents should learn how to protect their children from these threats and children should learn how to protect themselves.”

Be Aware of Cyber Crime Groups!
Reminding that during the pandemic, even children at kindergarten level are using the communication technologies due to the online education needs Asst. Prof. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı said that families are giving their children the freedom to use the internet, as a result of this exhausting process.

Stating that due to the uncontrolled and unsafe use of internet children and young people are becoming target of cybercrime, Asst. Prof. Beyazsaçlı, underlined that opening messages from strangers can result in unauthorized access to the computers camera via malwares, children may face risk of harassment with reward offers, and then they can be depressed through emotional blackmail.

Be aware of the dose of violence in games!
Kyrenia University Guidance and Psychological Counseling Department Head Asst. Prof. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı stated that the number of seriously violent games has increased, emphasizing that these “triggers” feelings of anger and aggression in children, making them to show violent behavior and may lead them to harm themselves or others.

Asst. Prof. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı said that “Blue Whale”, “Game of 72” and “48 Hours Challenge” are some of the games in this group, but new ones are added every day to the list of games that parents should protect their children.

Turn Off Chat Features
Many games may seem like innocent but their chat function poses danger. Families should be even more careful about in-game chat groups, which are the most dangerous areas for abuse. Asst. Prof. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı emphasizes that in-game chat and messaging features should be disabled especially for children under 10 years old. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı said that “Such security measures in the virtual environment should be regularly monitored and controlled by the family” and underlined that parents should warn and tell their children not to chat with strangers in the virtual environment and not to accept private messages from unknown sources.

Domestic Empathy Saves Lives
Reminding that the family relations should be based on empathy, Asst. Prof. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı noted that if parents do not respond to the psychological needs of their children, emotions such as loneliness, worthlessness and depression can occur in children due to emotional neglect. Beyazsaçlı said that this can turn children into an ideal target for cybercrime groups that seem friendly on the internet.

Digital Guidance is Essential
Asst. Prof. Dr. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı stated that the concept of “Digital Guidance”, which has been included in the literature recently, requires more than classical parent approaches. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı said, “The kid who is playing outside has joined the virtual environment with technology and parallel to this, street criminals have been transferred to the virtual environment. Our children who grow up with technology are defined as “Digital Native” and as parents we are defined as “Digital Immigrant”.” Digital immigrants can control and protect digital natives, as long as they improve themselves and become digital guides.”

Improve Yourself on Digital Guidance
University of Kyrenia Guidance and Psychological Counseling Department Head Asst. Prof. Mehmet Beyazsaçlı made the following recommendations for the parents:

  • Get information from technology experts near you about the dangers of the Internet.
  • Load an anti-virus program that prevents unauthorized access to camera, audio device and computer accounts, and inform your children about the dangers on the internet, and monitor how much time your child is spending on the internet and his/her online environment.
  • Encourage your child to use internet safely and control his/her virtual environment without hurting their emotional space.
  • Create safe and empathetic relationships with your child where they can share their private problems.
  • Inform your child about sexual abuse and raise awareness about protecting himself / herself.
  • Be aware of the causes of their sudden emotional and behavioral changes, feel free to consult a specialist if necessary.
  • When your child misbehaves, instead of accusing or blaming use it as a teaching moment and approach them with a positive attitude.