The beginning of February marks Safer Internet Day 2023, an initiative between UK Safer Internet Centre in partnership with Childnet which seeks to create and maintain a better online world.
Across our courses at Compass Fostering, participants often discuss how to keep children safe on the internet and how to have conversations about their child’s life online. Given the fact that children today are growing up with the internet, it’s incredibly important to communicate with your child about their online presence and identify any risks that come with it, such as online grooming. However, these conversations can feel increasingly difficult for many adults due to a lack of confidence as well as gaps between generations and lived experiences.
While it can be scary, it’s vital to maintain communication and connection with children and young people, as well as our curiosity about what matters to them about life online so that it becomes easier to tackle these difficult conversations about internet safety.
Therefore, here are some tips about having difficult conversations about life online:
Talk openly and frequently about what you’re doing online
A good way to do this is by talking to them about the positive experiences you’ve had online, while also sharing some negative ones and how you’ve dealt with encountering content you didn’t want to see. By being honest with your child about your online life, it’s likely that they will feel more encouraged to share some details about their own. It’s good to start by asking your child about the sites that they visit and what they enjoy doing online to further maintain open communication between you both.
Make space for enjoying and exploring the online world together
Play games, watch videos and express an interest in your child’s online life – be curious and have fun! Celebrate all of the opportunities that technology has to offer and show them what a great space the internet can be when used responsibly. You could even ask your child to show you how to do something better online, as they will love teaching you about something that matters to them.
Dedicate time to talk about using the internet as a family and agree on online expectations
You can do this by setting some time aside to talk to the whole family about the role technology plays in your lives. For example, ask your children about how they stay safe online and where they learned to do that. It’s also important to use this discussion to establish rules and expectations that encourage the meaningful use of technology, in the same way that you would set boundaries in other areas of your child’s life. It’s important to review these regularly and adapt them for each member of your family, taking care to ensure your children have an individual, safer online plan with actions to maintain this.
Learn about the apps, games and websites that your child is using
After communicating with your child about their life online, it’s important to do some valuable research into the apps, games and websites that they are using. By doing this, you can adapt your child’s online safety plan accordingly should anything go wrong. There are lots of tools and guides to support your child’s internet safety on whatever online platform they are using, and you will be able to check age ratings, privacy settings and safety features such as blocking and reporting.
Support and reassure your child if things go wrong
It’s important to remind your child that they can talk to you about anything. However, in some instances, your child might be too nervous to speak to you if something has gone wrong in their online life. Therefore, it’s important to ask your child if they know where to go for help and identify if there are other individuals they may feel comfortable speaking to. If something goes wrong, listen and respond with reassurance and kindness. You can work with your child and the team around them to find solutions to the problem, such as by using online safety features or seeking advice from other professionals involved.
Ultimately, we are hoping to see these conversations take place with our young people in their participation events, in our foster carers’ support groups, in our schools and more importantly, with each other. By doing this, we can help children and young people access all of the amazing things that happen online, while also keeping them safe.
At Compass, we also have courses on internet safety delivered by our team of trainers throughout the year, which can also be accessed via our Training Hub. During the month we have organised webinars for young people of primary and secondary school age, as well as for their foster carers. There are many informative pages on social media to keep updated, and Childnet has a helpful family agreement guide to help the discussion around rules online.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, Compass offers comprehensive safeguarding training to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child or young person in your care. To find out more about fostering with us, get in touch with our team today.