The best way to keep kids safe online is to take an active interest right from the start. They need your love and protection online as much as they do in the real world. What your child is exposed to will depend on how they’re using the internet – social network users are more likely to experience cyberbullying, see sexual or violent images, or have contact with strangers.
The internet and social media have changed the way children experience bullying. Cyberbullying can happen via text, email and on social networks and gaming platforms, and the latest Ofcom Children and Parents Media Use report showed that one in eight 12-15 year olds say they have been bullied on social media.
62% of 11 year-olds and 69% of 12 year-olds have a Facebook profile despite the minimum age of 13 to open an account. From research, we know that as children become more active online it’s highly likely that they’ll see something that they may not be able to process and in many cases may not tell anyone about what they’ve seen. Agreeing ground rules, setting parental controls and encouraging critical thinking can all aid in making sure that children can navigate the net safely and can come to you if something upsets them.
Simply put, parents cannot afford to switch off when it comes to making sure their children enjoy the wonders of the internet while staying safe too.
Put Yourself in Control
Make use of the parental controls on your home broadband and any internet-enabled devices, including your child’s mobile phone. You can find out how at your broadband or mobile network provider’s website.
Have a family agreement about where they can use the internet, how much time they can spend online, the sites they can visit and the type of information they can share.
Have a Conversation
The best way to find out what your child is doing online is to ask them to tell you about what they do and what sites they like to visit. Discuss with them what they might come across.
The age ratings that come with games, apps, films and social networks are a good guide to whether they’re suitable for your child. The minimum age limit is 13 for several social networking sites, including Facebook and Instagram.
Get Them Clued Up
Talk to children about the benefits and risks of social networking before they join any sites. Let them know that anything they upload, email or message could stay around forever online.
To help keep kids safe online, you can teach them to be critical of things they see online and judge the quality and reliability of online sources.
As they get older and more confident in their digital world, it’s important to encourage them to be more responsible and aware of how their screen use can impact them and others. Encourage young people to make use of the screen-time tools that come with their phone. They will still need some encouragement to make changes to what they are doing and the amount of time they are spending but it’s better that they start to discover and monitor this for themselves where possible.
14 Years and Over
Make sure they set high privacy settings on social networks. Encourage them to stay safe online by regularly change their passwords and never to share or put online any of their personal details like phone number, address or their school.
Manage their Online Persona
Remind them that they should only post things online that they wouldn’t mind you, their teacher or a future employer seeing. Don’t be afraid to tackle difficult subjects like cyberbulling and sexting.
Stay Safe on the Move
Make sure safety and privacy settings are activated on their mobile devices and they aren’t sharing private information. Be aware that using public Wi-Fi might not filter inappropriate content, so look for friendly Wi-Fi symbols when you’re out and about.
Thinking About Time
Be open and honest about the online risks teens face so they feel confident to talk to you if they get into trouble online – and don’t overreact – remember that the dialogue is important and you want them to come back to you the next time they need support. To keep kids safe online, you can make them aware of practical things they can do to deal with risks online, like blocking and reporting on the platforms they use.
Put in place some simple rules…
- Make sure your child knows how to block abusive comments and report content that worries them.
- Teach them to respect others online and think about comments before they post them.
- Don’t arrange to meet people in real life that they’ve only talked to online and remind them that some people may not be who they say they are.
- Use secure and legal sites to download music and games.
- Check attachments and pop ups for viruses before they click or download anything.
- When using the internet for homework, make sure they use information appropriately and explain things in their own words rather than copying.
To keep kids safe online, it’s important to encourage meaningful conversations about online safety…
- Make sure your child knows they can come to you if they’re upset by something they’ve seen online.
- Tell them you trust them to do the right thing rather than over monitoring their internet use.
- If your child comes to you with an issue, stay calm and listen without judging them and don’t threaten to take away their devices.
- Tackle peer pressure by explaining that if they’re talked into bullying someone online or sending inappropriate images it may get reported to their school or even the police.
- Talk to them about how much time they spend online and make sure this is balanced against other activities.
- Children often feel they can say things online that they wouldn’t say face-to-face. Teach them to always have respect for themselves and others online.