How to keep your child safe online

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Child internet safety expert, Professor Andy Phippen provides advice to help parents keep their children safe online at home

Don’t block too many websites: While this might seem like an easy option, it could actually prevent your child from getting the most from some of the fantastic opportunities there are on the internet, and it might make them become more secretive with you. Just make sure that you teach them about e-safety risks first.

 Apply offline rules online: Just like you tell your children not to talk to strangers, the same rules should apply online. This could be telling them not to accept a friend request or respond to a message from someone they don’t know for instance.

Do your own homework: New apps and sites pop up daily which can make it hard to keep up-to-date with the latest on what children are using. Keeping track of your child’s latest activity online is essential.  Also, online forums or blogs such as Mumsnet can be a good place to read-up on the latest developments, and will help you work out if a site might be unsuitable for your child.

Don’t rely on simply filtering your home internet: Today, the online world doesn’t just come down the pipe into your home. Public Wi-Fi is often unfiltered and can be accessed in shops and fast food chains, while networks on smartphones will also be unfiltered. There are a number of tools and resources available to help, such as technology that enables you to monitor and moderate how your child uses all of their devices, in the home and outside, from an online dashboard in the form of Point2Protect.

Explain why you want to monitor your child’s devices: You shouldn’t think of e-safety as something you do to your children, but something you do with them. It will be much easier to discuss any concerns you have if they know why you want to understand who’s contacting them and how long they’re spending online. Part of the process of developing a child’s own sense of e-safety is to make them a participant and not an unwilling passenger on the journey

Ask them to be your ‘friend’: Not every child will want their mum or dad as a friend on their social media account, but there is no harm in asking. If they accept, you will be able to see what they get up to – just don’t be the un-cool parent who comments on a post!

Don’t rely on the classroom: Despite the fact that schools are using e-safety measures to ensure that children stay safe on their own network, you can’t rely on this to keep them safe at home, where the same rules won’t be applied.

 Sharing isn’t always good: We encourage our children to share their toys with other children at the playground. In an online environment, the rules are slightly different. There are certain things such as personal details or photos that we shouldn’t be sharing online, so make sure your child knows that. Why not share these UK Safer Internet Centre resources with your child?

 One size doesn’t fit all: It’s vital that you have rules for how your children’s devices are used, but you can’t expect the same rules to apply to all. The rules you put in place for your eight year old son’s tablet are different to those for your fourteen year old daughter. You need to be able to simply adjust the rules applied to all your children’s devices depending on their age and any concerns you may have.

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