Online Safety Guidance for Parents/Carers - Keeping your child safe online
Children nowadays spend a lot of time online. Their use of the Internet may be fun, can help with their homework, and help them socialise in remote locations. There are a lot of positives to Internet use but there can also be dangers. As a parent do you know the signs of Internet abuse and how to ensure your child stays safe online?
At school your child will be taught about many of the dangers online, but as a parent/carer you can also help to keep your child safe on line, you cannot. Below are some top tips for helping your child stay safe online.
- Talk to your child about online safety and talk about what they do online regularly. Technology changes frequently and new apps and websites appear very frequently. Talking regularly about e-safety and getting your child to discuss their usage with you will allow you and your child to stay safe. The more you talk to your child the easier the conversation will become.
- Set rules and agree boundaries over Internet usage. These will change as your child grows older but you might want to consider time allowed online during the week and weekends, age ratings of movies and games they play, sharing personal information, images and videos, and where they use the Internet in the home.
- Use parental controls. Parental controls are provided free of charge from most of the main Internet Service Providers including Virgin, BT, Talk Talk and Sky. They allow you to filter or restrict content. Some even allow you to restrict the times of the day devices can access the Internet, ideal to ensure your child does not go on the Internet at all hours.
- Check your child understands about privacy settings. This includes the settings on the device they are using and any apps or websites they are using.
- ‘Friend’ your child - Know who your child is talking to online. Make sure they do not share personal information, their names, where they live or even the school they go to. This can be used to build trust, so that you can see what is being posted, who your child is talking to and that they are using the Internet/online apps safely.
- Finally, remember, as an adult, you can control what devices children can use and when they can use them.
How to identify the signs of Internet/online abuse and dangers
A young person experiencing online abuse might not be noticed as it may be perceived as normal teenage behaviour, but some of the symptoms may include:
- They may be spending more or less time online, texting, gaming or using social media.
- Seem distant, upset or angry after using the Internet or texting.
- They might change their friendship groups, or have an older boy/girlfriend.
- Not wanting to let anyone know who they're talking to or what they have been doing online or on their phone.
- Using sexualised language that is inappropriate to their age.
- Have lots of new phone numbers, texts or email addresses on their mobile phone, laptop or tablet.
- Have unexplained money, goods or presents.
If you are concerned you can find out much more about online abuse and identifying it from the NSPCC website:
Mental Health, the online world and your child
Many social media platforms or sites offer features that both adults and children enjoy. They remove barriers such as time and distance and allow us to share things that matter.
Many children find that social media sites allow them to explore new ideas, and have friendships that would not otherwise be possible in remote rural locations such as ours.
However, there is a downside to this, to many of our children it starts to define who they are and acts as a tool for comparing their lives with others. This can have a major impact on any individual's self esteem. Quite often this will determine what is posted online, there is a desire to gain approval from their peer group, and to avoid any negative comments in response to information online.
With pictures, social media promotes a selfie culture and it is not unknown for children and adults, to spend time ‘fixing themselves’ by retaking or editing images to gain maximum approval on the social media sites.
There is a danger our children, when using social media, are performing to an audience in order to get positive comments. Positive comments feel good, negative comments make you feel miserable and it can be all too easy for our children to do something they regret in the hope of getting positive comments and avoiding the negative ones.
As a parent you may want to talk with your child about the impact of seeking approval from the edited reality of the online world. You should discuss with them their online/social media relationships and conversations. Take an active interest in your child’s social media life, set boundaries so there is time they disconnect from the online world and they are more able to make fully informed judgements. If your child is obsessed with selfies, or obsessing with getting positive comments or even feeling depressed about negative comments, it is important to talk them about their self-esteem and allow them to disconnect from the pressures of the online world.
Social Media can be a valuable tool for our children to use, it will allow them to grow further and develop but we must always remind ourselves that they are children and need to be guided to make informed choices.