Today is Safer Internet Day and therefore what better topic to blog about than keeping our kids safe while they are online.
I have already talked about internet safety and kids online in a previous post. Today however I’m looking at specific things we need to be doing in order to ensure our kids are safe in the digital world.
Had it not been for Safer Internet Day, I probably wouldn’t have given this much thought for the next few months. My kids aren’t old enough for social media. But no age is too early to start educating our kids and my somewhat blasé approach really needs to change!
We need to make sure all of our kids know the basics of online safety before handing them a device. And this is turn means we also need to know the basics! Us parents need to step up and play a big role in how our kids are using the internet – and technology in general. It is our responsibility to teach our kids how to be safe in all aspects of their life – including online.
Safety online is no different from safety in the big wide world. It comes down to a handful of rules:
Watch what you say and to whom you say it
This is just as true for the Internet as it is for the streets. One of the first things we teach our kids is ‘stranger danger’. We need to make sure we’re teaching our kids what is ok to share online and only ever with people they trust. Think of communicating online as face-to-face chats. Basically, if they wouldn’t say it someone’s face, why would they post it online? Once written down either in a message, on a forum, on social media etc., it can be shared. The written word can be taken out of context very quickly which can lead to confusion, heartache and regret. Never ever share personal details online and make sure all social media accounts are set to private. Kids may feel like they know the internet better than us, but they’re not old enough to deal with any fallout that may arise.
Don’t be fooled
Never trust everything you read or see and never click on anything because you’re asked to. As an adult, we come across scams regularly – whether it’s bogus emails, spam calls, hacking attempts, fake news – we are used to questioning what we read. Kids aren’t. We need to explain to our kids that some people take on false identities and lie to trick them into sharing information. Usually, if they’re offered something for free or have won a competition they never entered, they need to question what this could be and have the confidence to come to us if they’re unsure about anything. Kids (of all ages) are new and vulnerable targets. Once again, it comes down to life experience and it is up to us to share our knowledge and just make sure they’re aware! Hyper vigilance is better than ignorance and naivety.
I remember when I first started out using computers at school. I had the same password for everything – it was easy to remember and no doubt even easier to hack! We need to teach them the importance of safeguarding their information and accounts. Give them the same advice you’re given (and hopefully take). Never use birthdays, pet names or the like and use different passwords for different accounts. Password managers such as Last Pass are just as important for them as they are for us. It’s easy to carry out a privacy check up on sites now and many services have greatly improved their privacy tools. Take time to check the sites they use for their privacy settings and make sure they’re set to the highest possible.
Going back to one of the first points I made, the internet can quickly take things out of context and ultimately out of control. We can’t change the fact that social media plays (or will play) a big part in our childrens’ lives. We need to guide them in using these sites positively. Teach them kindness and acceptable behavior online just as we would in their day-to-day lives. They need to be responsible for their actions and realise that any form of bullying is totally unacceptable.
Our kids need to feel comfortable enough to talk to us (or another trusted adult) when they come across something they’re not comfortable with. We need to support them by always being open about everything related to the internet. If you don’t feel you have the skills to be able to discuss online safety, remember that the same rules apply online as they do outside. There need to be rules for internet useage and children of all ages need to have boundaries. Google and Android have a Google Family link app as well as an important safety hub (find out more here and here) and Apple has similar parental control settings. Learn about them and use them!
- Always set ground rules
- Use a timer control (it’s easy to forget yourself when the house is quiet because everyone is on a device)
- Be proactive. Make sure you are aware of what your kids are watching and that it’s appropriate – YouTube has a history and parental controls can (and should) be set.
- Creativity is far more fun. If you have younger kids, get creative and let them experience rather than watch others experience it all.
- Be available. Always take time to listen if your kids are unsure of anything they are experiencing online. A small issue can quickly tumble out of control.
- Take time to discuss online safety and try to understand how aware your child is of their own safety. Make a checklist of safety rules to follow.
- Remind yourself and your child that a digital footprint can (and will) impact your life so it’s vital that the footprint is a positive one.
Use Safer Internet Day as the time you change the way you and your kids use the internet and stay safe online!