Keeping Children Safe Online

Keeping Children Safe Online

Keeping children safe online image

This is part of a series of posts on keeping safe online, see our post of the basics here:

Online Safety – The Basics

 

The internet is an incredible amount of knowledge, resources and entertainment available to anyone with an internet connection. It is possible to connect with people from around the globe, watch TV and videos, learn new skills and play games. It can also be a dark and dangerous place and as a parent that worries me.

I want my child to be able to experience all of the good things the internet has to offer as I feel the skills and ability to use the internet will become important, if not essential, as my child gets older.

So how do we keep our children safe online?

Young children

For those with young children, there are filters that your Internet Service Provider can set on your network, these help to block access to content they deem as unsuitable. You can see more about these here: https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre/parents-and-carers/parental-controls-offered-your-home-internet-provider

If your child uses a mobile device with data, either Pay As You Go, or as part of a family contract you can add parental controls to their mobile, speak to your mobile service provider for information on what they can do to help.

The websites of device manufacturers (such as games consoles) should also outline the controls to which you have access. You can find out more by visiting www.internetmatters.org/parental-controls.

For more information about specific devices and what can be done to make your child’s device safe, you can also look at this site: https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre/parents-and-carers/parents-guide-technology

As clever as these filters are they cannot block all of the content you do not want your child to access, for young children I would advise supervised internet access. Sit with your child as they use the net, talk to them about what they are doing and make it a shared experience. If you do come across something that you do not want your child to see or access explain to them why and as they grow older talk to them about the importance of online safety.

Older Children

As our children grow up and become more independent supervising their internet access is no longer a viable option. Children value their privacy and parents won’t want to spend hours watching Minecraft or cat videos.

Before we allow our children unsupervised internet access it is vital that we teach them how to protect themselves online. I think the most important is having open talks with them, so if they do see something they do not like or are unsure of, they talk to a parent or carer about it. As the internet is not a part of a lot of people’s lives these conversations can be had when discussing other things. For instance, if you are talking about school and their friends talk about online safety and how they communicate with others outside of school.

There are several key points that parents and carers need to raise about spending time online:

Content

There is a lot of content on the internet that we would not think of as suitable for our children, as they start to access things like social media and games they may come into contact with this. Devise a strategy with your child about what they should do when they come across this type of content, such as turning the screen off or talking to an adult. There is also content out there which is either completely untrue or written with a heavy bias, encourage your child to talk to you about the content they are accessing. Other content is shared illegally, such as films and some TV shows, so talk to them about the implications if viewing or sharing these.

Contact

It is important for children to know the people they communicate with online may not be who they claim to be. Once someone has been added as a friend to a social media account your child could be sharing personal information with them. Ensuring your child reviews friends lists and removing unwanted contacts on a regular basis is essential. Privacy settings will allow your child to limit the amount of information that is shared with others. Reinforce with your child the importance of telling a trusted adult straight away if someone is bullying them or making them feel uncomfortable, or if one of their friends is being bullied online. If you think your child has been contacted by someone inappropriately then this should be reported to the police via the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre: www.ceop.police.uk

Conduct

Everything we, and our children, do online leaves a digital footprint and this can be viewed by others. Whilst it is easy to feel anonymous online, as you are not talking to people face to face, what they post can cause harm to both themselves and others. It is vital we teach our children to keep their personal information safe from strangers. We also need to teach them to be responsible and respectful online and not to say things online they would not say to someone in person. Information, conversations and images can be copied and shared, potentially forever, so teach them to think twice before posting.

Commercialisation

A lot of the content online is posted for commercial reasons, it is designed to make money. This means games and apps often have the ability to pay for new features or special items. Ensure your child is aware that these have a real-world cost, or even better do not have a bank account or card linked to their device or account. It can be useful to have a family email address for when the sign up for apps or fill in online forms. We also need to teach them how to vary of online scams such as phishing emails that try to get information from them. Ensure they speak to an adult before doing anything online they are not sure about.

Whilst a lot of this can seem daunting and even scary it is all a part of normal parenting, if you wouldn’t allow your 5-year-old to walk to the park to see friends alone, then don’t allow them to access the internet alone. I personally want my child to be online and get all of the benefits that it has to offer, including an awareness of technology and its uses in modern life. However, I do take steps to ensure my child is safe online.

The NSPCC has an excellent guide about online safety for children and goes into more detail about the things shown above it can be found here:
https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/

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