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How to Keep Your International Student Safe Online

online safety

Parenting has always been hard, but it’s only become more difficult in the internet age. Between social media, gaming, and an abundance of screens, most parents say raising a child is more difficult today than it was 20 years ago, according to a report from Pew Research Center. 

If your child attends school in another country, these challenges become even more difficult, especially because social norms around technology differ from country to country. 

Do you want to ensure your child is safe online while studying abroad? Follow these tips to help them develop a healthy relationship with technology. 

Make their digital life a recurring topic in your regular conversations.

All children engage in risky behavior and the internet often provides children with many opportunities to put themselves in dangerous situations. In the past few years, that’s only become more common. 

Helping young people develop healthy relationships with the internet begins with open and honest dialogue. Ask your child what they do online. Whom do they talk with? What apps do they use? What pictures are they sharing? If your child mention a particular app, account, or game you’re unfamiliar with, do some research. 

It’s important to remove judgment from these conversations. Try to prompt them to highlight risky behavior and dangerous situations by asking questions like, “What were you hoping to gain?” or “How might that look to someone who doesn’t know you?” If they’re regularly chatting with people they’ve never met in person, ask them questions about who those people are beyond their avatars. 

If you take their digital lives seriously and resist the temptation to only compare them against your own (much different) childhood, then they will be more responsive when you voice concerns.

Encourage healthy digital use of time and, when possible, limit their daily use.

Emphasize the positive aspects of the internet, like the videoconferencing service you’re using to chat with them or the online tools they use to complete homework assignments. Talk also about the downsides digital life can have on our health, such as its links to depression and sleep loss.

You might even consider creating what the American Academy of Pediatrics calls a Family Media Plan, which acts as a collaborative, practical guide for limiting screen time and internet use, even when you’re thousands of miles apart. 

Contact a school counselor or administrator if you’re concerned your child is at risk.

Sometimes open conversation and education aren’t enough. If you’re concerned your child might be at risk for more serious issues, like technology addiction or exposure to sexual predators, then you should notify their school counselors and administrators, who can begin an immediate intervention.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
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