Children are gaining their own digital independence from as early as the age of 10, a recent study by Ofcom states, so keeping an eye on your child’s internet usage is key when it comes to their safety. More children are gaining access to the net earlier than ever before and sometimes this can come with risks for their safety and wellbeing. Our lives heavily depend on being able to go online, so here are the things you can do to make sure your children are staying safe when using the internet.
1. Communicate and set boundaries
It’s important to be clear with your child what you are and are not happy for them to do online. Being positive about certain restrictions and explaining that they are set because you care and want to keep them safe can help them to understand why these boundaries are in place. Empowering your child to make safe choices online rather than banning them from certain websites will help them to feel more confident in their own decisions. Having an open discussion with your child about the websites and apps they are accessing can help you both feel comfortable talking about any issues that may arise in the future.
Asking your children what they like to do online can open a positive discussion.
2. Be informed and stay up to date
Being able to stay up to date with new apps and social media is an important aspect of children’s online safety. It may feel difficult to ask a teenager about their social media usage as they want to feel more independent, but they will be savvy with their socials, so checking in with them can help to make it a conversation rather than interrogation. Consent about sharing information is an important aspect of social media, 68% of young people have stated that they would report something that had been shared about them without their permission, and 63% would report it if it happened to a friend of theirs. It can feel like a game of whack-a-mole, once you think you have one social media sussed, another two pop up. Other caregivers can be a great resource, talking to parents and teachers in schools can be an effective way to stay in the loop. Following informative pages on your own social media can keep you updated in real time.
3. Let them know the risks
As a caregiver you won’t always know exactly what your child is accessing online. Being as open as possible around their internet usage is key, along with letting them know the risks having a presence online pose to them.
- Self-image and identity issues can arise because of their exposure to certain content on social media.
- Do your children know who they are interacting with? Online relationships should be navigated carefully, they should only interact with people they know e.g. family and school friends.
- Encourage young people to think carefully about what they post online; pictures and videos are difficult to completely wipe out once they’ve been posted.
GOV UK have a handy framework for adults to share with young people covering many parts of educational online subjects.
Its’s important not to scare young people away from being online, letting them know the risks to be aware of can help to empower their experience online.
4.Encourage healthy surfing habits
Having a positive attitude towards your child’s internet usage will help you both be able to have open discussions about what they’re getting up to. Make sure to not block access to technology, help your young people to learn how to use their devices in a safe, non-judgmental environment to not discourage them from communicating with you.
Children’s screen usage is not harmful in itself so banning certain devices won’t be too helpful. Instead, having rules about usage before bed, during the school week or timing limits can help to create a healthy attitude towards their device(s) and establish trust between you.
5. Make use of parental controls
Parental controls are typically used for young children and help you to filter or block any content that you are uncomfortable with your child accessing. Certain websites can be inappropriate, offensive or hurtful for young people, to adjust what they can access you can:
- Make sure geolocation is turned off on their devices.
- Plan when your child can go online and how long for.
- Search engines have parental controls to filter appropriate results.
- Find out what games/ social media/ websites you child is accessing and talk through the privacy settings for each one as these can greatly differ.
The NSPCC have a parental control guide for an array of devices that can be linked online.
Sharing resources with young people can even help them to stay up to date on what to be aware of online, too.
It can be quite difficult to keep up with online trends and behaviours, along with finding a balance between giving young people privacy and their own freedom. There are plenty of resources for both adults and young people giving tips and helpful advice:
For young people (primary and secondary ages)
All children need to be protected when it comes to them being online, at Compass we equip our carers with the knowledge and tools to help keep young people safe and away from harm, both in the real world and online. If you think you would like to learn more about fostering with us, please get in touch and we will answer any questions you may have.