Children and young people are adopting gadgets such as tablets, smartphones and gaming consoles at an ever-increasing rate, with an astounding 80% of 8-11 year-olds owning tablets and a whopping 73% of teenagers now owning smartphones.
Technology, the internet and social media platforms offer a plethora of opportunities for children to explore new ideas, learn and have fun. Despite this, of course, such platforms come with a risk. It is therefore vital that we teach them to navigate the online space safely and responsibly.
Below are some valuable tips for Parents!
1. Encourage Conversation
Having a discussion with your children doesn’t have to be a daily occurrence, nor does it need to be hours long. Every so often, we suggest beginning your conversations casually, with questions such as:
- What’s your favourite website?
- What are your favourite online games?
- Do you use these websites every day?
Having gained some insight into which websites, apps and social media sites they are interested in, you will be able to guide the conversation to help them understand the dangers and inappropriate content they may come across.
You may want to consider asking them what they deem to be inappropriate or what dangers they think exist online. Consider offering your own stories such as stumbling across inappropriate content on social media- get them thinking about what they are posting online! This will allow you to gauge how much they know about the topic and how much detail you may need to go into. With this, it is important not to assume that they are engaging in risky behaviour nor to be alarmed- try to continue the calm nature of the conversation. To achieve this, you may want to encourage a dialogue between yourself and your child about the opportunities and positive impacts these websites create.
2. Set Boundaries
As you have spoken about both the opportunities and risks that being online can create, you can now gear the conversation towards establishing boundaries, whilst ensuring your children are a part of the decision making process. You may want to think about discussing the following:
Usage limitations– Are they going over their data allowance? Are they downloading paid for apps?
Age restrictions– Are they accessing appropriate apps for their age group?
Location tracking– Are they sharing their location on social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat?
From this, you are able to discover the appropriate boundaries that should be in place in order to keep your children safe online, without completely wrapping them in cotton wool! But how do we do this?
3. Ensure Security and Privacy Settings are Set
By opening up these discussions, you will be able to present the importance of their own personal security online and the importance of keeping their information private. To put into practice, there are number of security and privacy settings that you may wish to consider.
- Establish appropriate privacy settings on their current social media sites
- Ensure they are not unwittingly sharing their location online by disabling location services on your children’s iPhone within parental controls
- Make sure all current and future app downloads are not requesting and receiving data
Consider contacting your children’s mobile network and your home internet service provider to implement web access filtering in order to minimise the risk of accessing inappropriate content.