We all know the internet is a wonderful and powerful tool, and for many of us, it is part of our daily lives, either professionally or socially – or both. However, growing up with access to the internet is something that, as parents and carers, we have not experienced for ourselves.
Recent data from Kiddi Caru revealed that 60% of toddlers already have their own tablet, with over half of these (57%) being aged three and under. This means that the age of those accessing material online is getting younger, meaning conversations around online safety need to happen sooner.
Our six simple steps can be introduced to a family at any age, to help you to keep your child safe when using the internet, by laying the foundations for open and honest discussions about being online.
Get Familiar Yourself
The best way to monitor and guide your little one on how to use the internet safely is to make sure you understand the sites or games they will be, or are currently, using.
Before allowing your child to create an account or interact with a new website, be sure to familiarise yourself with the site and its content. Read reviews from other parents, check the age certificates and review the safety features the websites have in place. Such as, the ability to block and report other users, and how to take down posts and comments quickly.
You will then be able to discuss these features with your child to make sure they are armed with all the knowledge needed to keep them safe before spending time on a website.
As your child grows, they will want to expand the sites and devices they use. To make sure these are safe and appropriate, we recommend you explore them together.
This will give you the opportunity to have open discussions with your child about what they believe the site/device is used for, who else has access or uses them and how your child can keep safe by not sharing personal information or details.
You will also be able to review the parental features and set up the login information together, enabling you to be aware of what they have access or input to on the sites/devices.
Pay Attention to Age Restrictions
Most sites and all video games are supplied with age restrictions and certificates, similar to those supplied for films. These ratings clearly label the minimum age of the players. To make sure your little one is not exposed to inappropriate content, they should only have access to the certificates that reflect their age and under.
Even if the game or site is rated for your child’s age, it is always best to monitor the content with them as every child matures at different rates and your little one may have questions or find some content upsetting.
By sharing these moments and having open conversations at an early age, you will be able to supply your child with the knowledge and understanding to build a healthy relationship with digital content.
Create an Open Family Agreement
Whether you decide to go old school with pen and paper or to create a flashy power point, the process of sitting down as a family to create a list of agreements is important at any age. This allows your child to be part of the discussion to agree on how you are all expected to use the internet at home and what to do if certain situations arise.
From not signing up to new sites without parental permission to rules for everyone, such as no devices at the dinner table and screen time limits. You can update the family agreement as your child grows, to make sure the rules stay relevant and are adhered to by everyone.
Your child must understand that the people they speak to online could be lying about who they are. They should be encouraged to only speak with the friends they have in real life.
You can monitor this by opening conversations with the parents of your child’s friends, to make sure all the children involved are safe and speaking to the friends they know.
It is important for your child to understand that although they may speak with someone online, they are still a stranger. This means they should never arrange to meet up with anyone without their parent being present.
This can all be helped by agreeing with your child to speak with you before accepting any new friends over social media, even people they believe they already know, so you can make sure it is who they believe it to be.
Cyber Bullying Awareness
It is easy for children to forget that the people they are speaking to online are real and have feelings that can be hurt. Even at an early age it is vital to make your little one aware of cyber bullying. You can introduce the topic by reading ‘Digi Duck’s Big Decision’ by Childnet International.
If your child tells you they are being bullied, keep calm as this will already be an emotional situation for your little one. There are steps to help, from choosing to report or block individuals or content online, to speaking with the school if relevant and taking further action if bullying continues.
There are many sources that lend support and guidance to make sure the internet is a great source of learning, play and socialising safely for your little one.
To learn more about preventing abuse and bullying online – www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/bullying-and-cyberbullying/keeping-children-safe