Keeping your children safe online over summer
The summer holidays are just around the corner. And with around six weeks to try to entertain themselves in, it's almost inevitable that youngsters will spend a significant portion of their time online.
For parents and carers, this can be particularly stressful. Not only will youngsters be staying still indoors instead of being active outside, but also they are at risk if they don't use their devices appropriately. Therefore, we've put together some helpful advice on how to keep youngsters safe online.
Become the Student
Whether you think you know everything there is to know about technology and online safety, playing the student could help your child cement their knowledge. It's widely accepted that the best way to learn something properly is to teach it. Explaining a topic requires more understanding than rote learning - so take advantage of this.
Start a conversation with your child about a topic relating to online safety and ask for their help. If they are older, say that your friends have been pressuring you to get Facebook. Explain that you want to be a part of their crowd, but that you're concerned about everyone seeing all that you post. Ask your child to help you put your profile together. They should most certainly be able to assist you here, and it gives you a chance to discuss how secure their profile is. If they don't know the answers, then you can explore the topic together. Use the links at the end of the article if you're stuck, find something especially relevant. Make sure you cover the importance of knowing the security and privacy of a profile.
Be the Parent
Setting rules and boundaries in the non-digital world comes naturally to parents. "Home by 8pm" and "Stick to the park" are old favourites that are largely observed by children. So why, when it comes to digital experiences, is this so different? In reality, the digital world is bigger and more accessible than the real world, therefore setting boundaries here is just as crucial.
Young people spend on average 12 hours a week online. It would probably be impossible (and in fact detrimental) to get them to kick the habit completely. The internet and social media form an important part of young people's lives. Consequently, completely restricting it could damage friendships in the long and short term. Having agreed internet/social media times or curfews, however, is a reasonable way to manage this need.
Sleep is critical to personal wellbeing, mental health, and physical health. As a result, you don't want your children up all night tapping and scrolling away. If you can, think about having a 'tech space' away from their bedroom. Keep this space where the games console, laptop, and phone are largely used. All brains need time to rest and to associate different spaces with different activities. By doing this, you naturally begin to associate the bedroom with sleeping, and the tech room with...tech.
It could get difficult to actively monitor this. There are apps out there that increase parental control (such as remote device locking or feature disabling at certain times). But make sure you do your research on them before you get them.
Don't be afraid to set boundaries with suitable repercussions if they are broken. Whether this is to keep your children offline at bedtime or to encourage them to go outside at least once a day. You'll probably soon notice a change in mood of your loved one. Just don't expect them to be happy immediately!
Become a Friend
In the real world: your child must have someone to talk to in the event that they are concerned by any online activity that they aren't comfortable with. By being calm, open, approachable and knowledgeable, your child may feel safer coming to you and discussing their concerns.
Do this by having regular discussions involving anything they might have seen online recently - in the news, funny 'memes', or perhaps the latest viral video on social media. These conversations show that you have a healthy interest in what they are consuming, and are encouraging them to use it in the appropriate manner. Whilst it won't guarantee that you will be the first port of call for your child, it will make them aware that you are comfortable speaking about the topic.
In the digital world: be their friend...follow them...keep a light-hearted eye on them. People are much more likely to behave on social media if they think that their parents can see what they're up to! It also operates as your chance to model appropriate use...just make sure you know how to use it first!
There's plenty of resources out there that will give you an overview of the various applications and sites your children are likely to be accessing. Learning about them will help you understand why your child is accessing them, and the language they are using to talk about them.
These resources are regularly updated to include new features of these applications, so you can stay up-to-date.
Use them to begin conversations and talk about how your child should be staying safe online.
Don't forget that the internet is full of safe and useful information, and in addition to social media it plays an important part of children's lives. Please note the below links will take you to an external website.
General Advice for Online
- Don't post personal information online (age, location, email address etc)
- Remember a photo/video is almost impossible to remove once it goes online, and it no longer belongs to the owner (it's really difficult to put the toothpaste back in the tube once you've squeezed it all out)
- Privacy should be as high as possible (particularly when you're under 18)
- Passwords are always confidential - you can find out more about secure passwords here (this will open an excel spreadsheet with a password generator)
- Befriend your friends - only be friends with people that you know
- Don't meet up with people from online (and speak to a responsible adult if someone asks you to)
- People can lie about who they really are online
- Like a photo, a tweet, comments, or status is very difficult to take back. Think carefully about how what you post may have an impact on your future.
- Bullying can happen online - stay kind and treat people how you would like to be treated
- If you think you are being bullied online, talk to a responsible adult
- If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, move away, close the website/app and speak to a trusted adult.