Raising children in the digital era can be complex and confusing. Let’s talk about online safety for kids.
The Internet can be wonderful for kids. They can use it to connect with distant family members, complete school work, research school projects, communicate with teachers and other children, and play interactive games.
But online access also comes with online safety risks, including exposure to inappropriate content, cyber bullying and inappropriate behaviours, and interaction with strangers with seedy motives.
Parents often feel uncomfortable and confused about allowing online access. It can be confusing and daunting to be aware of what their children see, hear and do on the Internet; how to have conversations with their children about online safety and cyber bullying; and keep an eye on their activities.
Online Safety for Kids Conversations
Try to remember back to when you were a 10-year-old (double digits!). Do you remember how you felt if you were excluded from an activity or you didn’t have access to something that every other child seemed to have? I lived some distance from my school which required my parents to drive me to school, sporting and social events. With two sisters, sometimes this resulted in a scheduling clash and I would not be able to go to one of these events.
I believe we need to carefully balance the positive and negative aspects of the Internet and online access, while not simply excluding our children from a key and pervasive technology. Thus, teaching our children about online safety and how to stay safe on the internet is more important than simply exclusion, and teaching your children safe and responsible online behaviour is more important than simply blocking content. And, the key to raising children in the digital era is engagement and keeping an eye on their online use.
Some of your online safety conversations should include:
- Spending time online together exploring and teaching your child appropriate online behaviour.
- Establishing age appropriate family rules for screen time and the location of online devices. For example, maximum two hours online each day, smartphones must be placed in the kitchen before bedtime and children sit in the living room (not a bedroom) when online gaming.
- Never posting or trading personal pictures and ensuring you have the consent of anyone else in your photos before you share them online.
- Never revealing personal information, such as full name, date of birth, address, phone number, school name or location.
- Using only a screen name and don’t share passwords (other than with parents and trusted adults).
- Never agreeing to meet in person with anyone you have only met online.
- Dealing with cyber bullying including how to respond to threatening emails, messages, or texts.
- Always telling a parent or trusted adult about any communication or conversation that made you feel uncomfortable.
It is equally important to remember, to take your child seriously if they talk to you about an uncomfortable online exchange.
Children may not immediately talk to you when they experience an uncomfortable situation so watching for warning signs is important. These can include:
- spending long hours online or complete withdrawal from online activities
- phone calls or messages from people you don’t know
- unsolicited gifts arriving in the mail
- your child suddenly turning off the computer when you walk into the room
- withdrawal from family life and reluctance to discuss online activities
So, talk to your children about online safety! Keep an open line of communication and make sure that they feel comfortable turning to you or other trusted adults when they have online safety problems and you will feel more comfortable raising children in the digital era.
Bright Zebra produces fun and engaging online safety children’s books.
Check out our books at: www.brightzebra.com