Today is Safer Internet Day 2023 and once again, the perfect opportunity to pause and ask ourselves whether we are aware of our kids’ digital footprints. Are we guiding them to use the internet responsibly? Are we offering support and openness should they need us? Are we good role models when it comes to screen time?

Today I’m reminding myself to ‘look up’. My phone is not going anywhere. I don’t need to respond to everything immediately and I don’t need to mindlessly scroll through endless videos. I do however need to be present for my kids. If we can’t tear ourselves away from our screens, how to we expect our kids to? Why should the listen to us if we don’t follow our own rules?

Much of what I’m writing is what I say every Safer Internet Day. But it needs to be said again – we need to hear it again!

There’s no arguing that the internet has significantly improved lives. Knowledge, entertainment, advice and education is available on demand, at the click of a button. It brings family and friends together and the world closer. It makes the impossible possible and opens doors for new and exciting opportunities.

Be the guidance your child needs

Without our guidance, how will our children learn to use it responsibly? The internet and everything that comes with it should enhance their life – but it will only do this if they are empowered to use it creatively and respectfully.

Safer Internet Day 2023 should remind us that as parents, we have a direct impact on how our children behave online and their safety in the digital world. Be open, be honest and discuss the importance of online safety and digital footprints.

Click here for the most commonly used internet acronyms used by kids.

Checklist – Safer Internet Day 2023

The following checklist is a start to empowering your children to be responsible, safe and kind online.

  • Understand how your child uses the internet – without understanding the risks, you won’t be able to discuss them with your child/children. What sites do they use? How do they communicate? Who are they communicating with? It’s also a great idea to get familiar with how they can best they can use it to advance in the digital age.
  • Set the rules – It’s important to communicate what’s expected of your kids. Don’t wait for something bad to happen – be proactive.
  • Security and privacy – All children must know how important it is to keep phone numbers, addresses, bank details, school details, family details (etc) private. It’s also crucial that their passwords are kept safe. If they are aware of dangers such as fraud and online theft from an early age, online privacy will be the norm.
  • Digital footprints – Our digital footprints follow us everywhere. They are the photos, the comments, the videos – basically the information about us that exists online as a result of our online activity. It’s crucial that our kids are fully aware that once they share something, it can’t be unshared. It’s all too common for private photos to get into the wrong hands, gossip to be spread like wildfire and personal information to be used to gain trust by those who mean harm. The highest privacy settings should be used on social media and they should understand the meaning of online stranger danger – are they really talking to who they think they are?
  • Not everyone is who they say they are – Directly following on from this, it’s vital that they understand that online personas are easy to fake, predators exist everywhere online and they are often very good at what they do. Your child needs to be aware of all of the dangers associated with sharing information with strangers online – even if this stranger says they are a child their own age!
  • Be there – Your child really needs to know that you are there for them no matter what. Even with the best intentions, it’s not uncommon for kids to get into trouble online. We need to be there, be open and be present.
  • Boost their confidence – social media is great – that is until it’s not! Certain aspects of social media are hard to deal with as an adult – let alone a hormonal tween/teen! We need to teach our kids to love themselves. Too many people get their self worth from how many likes the have and how many friends they have. Filters mask the real person and everyone posts as if they’re living their best life. It’s so important that we teach our children that confidence comes from within. Likes and positive comments should boost our confidence – not dictate it.
  • Be Kind – cyber bullying is real!!!  It can be very harmful to mental health and to living a happy life. One of the most important lessons we can teach our kids is to be kind and to come to us if they are being bullied. They should understand what cyber bullying looks like and be aware that it is illegal and there is help available should they need it.

This is my simple guide to internet safety. Download it, print it, share it.

Younger Children

If you have younger kids, these issues may not affect you just yet. However, time flies and it won’t be long before you’re facing just these kind of problems. Therefore, Safer Internet Day 2023 is the perfect time to become familiar with any issues that may arise further down the line and open the communication with your child now. In the meantime, there are ways to ensure your younger child is safe online:

  • Place the computer/device in a common area – to limit the risk of them talking to strangers or visiting sites they shouldn’t.
  • Use child-friendly search engines – such as Swiggle, DuckDuckGo and Kiddle. They’re perfect for those younger children who don’t need full access to Google.
  • Parental controls – Windows and Mac OS have parental controls which are easily activated. These include time limits, website restrictions and control over which apps can be opened.

The internet is a minefield for our kids. We have to do the best we can to keep them safe in a world many of us don’t fully understand.

For more information on keeping your tween/teen safe on social media, read my post here on social media and self worth.