How to keep kids safe online
The internet is an integral part of our children’s lives from an early age.
And this extended period of isolation, with most children doing their schooling from home, has significantly increased the time they spend online, for study as well as leisure.
The internet is a great resource for research and to help students stay in touch with teachers and classmates, but it comes with a range of risks, especially for young, inexperienced users.
Here’s some practical ways we can keep our kids can safe while they take advantage of all the benefits the internet offers.
1. Talk with your child about their online activity
Start early, and talk to kids about what they are reading, watching and who they are communicating with online. Discuss what sites they should visit or apps they use and talk about what you think is appropriate for their age. You want to prepare your child for the time when they will access the internet outside the safety of home. It’s vital to teach them about their online reputation, how they must be careful about how they behave, and the information they reveal.
2. Keep screens and devices where you can see them
Always monitor your child’s time online, particularly younger children. Keep the computer in a central spot in the home where it’s easy to keep an eye on what your child is doing and viewing online. For mobile devices, you can set them to forget wi-fi passcodes so your children can not go online without you knowing. And keep tablets, laptops or gaming out of bedrooms.
3. Know your parental controls
Innocent searches online can lead to not-so-innocent results, so it’s wise to know how to use the parental controls/search restrictions offered by web browsers, internet service provider and devices. For example, the SafeSearch Filters feature on Google will block sites with explicit sexual material. To turn it on, go to Settings/SafeSearch Filters.
4. Know who your children’s online friends are
As adults, we know that some people online aren’t who they say they are, but children and young people can be naïve about who they are chatting with. Make sure you become friends and contacts within your child’s social media circles and monitor posts. Your children may resist but tell them that is a condition for you to allow them access
5. Be ‘share aware’
If your child uses social networks, they must be made aware of the risk of personal information or images being made public once they post it. You should teach them to think and be cautious about what they post and share. Encourage your children to ask themselves before posting anything if the information or photo is something they would give a stranger. If the answer is no, don’t post it.
6. Keep control of your family’s digital footprint
Every picture and personal detail that is posted and shared on social media and the internet contributes to someone’s digital footprint. Once information is shared publicly, it can be used in ways you may not expect and cannot control. Teach your child to stay in control of their digital footprint by only sharing with people who they know and trust. Encourage them to be selective and use privacy settings on social media platforms.
7. Teach your children to keep their location private
Most apps, networks and devices have geo-tagging features which make your whereabouts public and can lead someone directly to you. These features should be turned off for privacy and safety reasons. Digital photos also contain metadata (information about the time, date and GPS coordinates) which may reveal more then you want to. Some social media platforms automatically hide or remove this data, but not all.
8. Keep track of online time
The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend children between the age of five and 17 should have no more than two hours of screen time a day. So, it’s important to monitor your child’s online time to ensure they do not develop bad habits. Get your children to agree on a period of time, say 30 minutes per session, and set a timer.
9. Social network safety
Educate yourself on ways to be safe on social networks so that you can give the best advice to your children. Sign up to the social networks and apps your children are using and find out how to use the privacy settings and reporting mechanisms. Talk about how they can stay safe on social networks, including talking to a trusted person when they are worried.
10. Lead by example
Always model the kind of positive online behaviour you would like your children to use. If they see you being cautious and respectable when you are online, they are more likely to follow in your footsteps. This includes limiting your own screen time.
This how to guide uses information collected from Kids Helpline, Children's Health Queensland, Office of the eSafety Commissioner.