Children younger than ever are able to unlock phones and devices, log on to the internet and navigate their way around games and apps. These tips will help keep them safe in the process.
While the online world is an exciting place for children to learn about the world with endless learning tools available at the click of a button, it is important parents stay on top of what their children have access to, and what they are doing.
Having a discussion about your children’s interactions with the online world and teaching them about cyber-bullying early will be critical to eradicating bullying into the future. Parents of primary school children tend to have a good understanding of what their children are doing online, so the next step is teaching children to become good digital citizens as they grow up.
Dr Anna Cohen, Sydney’s leading Clinical Child Psychologist has advice for parents on how to help children be cyber-safe while also translating their values and lessons learnt offline to the online sphere.
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Parents are the main source of advice and support for children online. Starting the cyber-bullying and safe online behaviour discussion early will be key to building up trust into the future. Keep an open dialogue as they grow up and be interested so you understand what your child is talking about with online platforms. This also provides the opportunity to discuss your values and teach your child to behave the same online as they would offline. Let them know it’s important not to respond to abusive, inappropriate of bullying emails, chats or instant messages. People who send these types of messages want you to respond and they will just keep doing it. Show it to your parents or an adult that you trust so that they can alert the appropriate people. It’s also important you outline that they need to use social media appropriately, and that it is not an appropriate place to post comments or pictures of someone you may be having conflict with.
Be across what websites and apps your child is visiting, what they are doing and how long they are spending online. Limit access to devices to common living areas, so you can keep an eye on what they are doing. Enable parental controls and safe search filters on all browsers to limit exposure to any inappropriate material and to give you control over what you think is appropriate.
Have set expectations
Setting household expectations for online usage and access is important to staying in control of what your children are doing online. For younger children, only grant access to specific apps and websites that you have verified. It might be useful to make a folder on a device specific to what they are allowed to access. Educating older children is also important to avoid younger siblings accessing inappropriate material on older sibling’s devices, and to ensure they are modeling good online behaviour. Establish expectations in the early years so they become routine when your child gets older. Set expectations such as no devices to be used in bedrooms, especially at night as this is when teenagers are most likely to be active online.
Interact with them online
Avoid letting your child consume endless online content. Work with your child to help them interact with games and applications with educational value. This will not only benefit how your child navigates through the online world but will help to understand how the platform works. Becoming familiar with what your children wants to use will help you to give ‘relevant and knowledgeable’ advice, and enable you to adjust the necessary privacy settings. Teach your child that they are the best one to monitor what they see online and that if something is making them feel uncomfortable, then it is not appropriate, and they need to talk to you about it.
Safety is Paramount
Younger children often want to be on apps that their older sibling may have such as Instagram, snap chat or games where they can access multiple players. As a parent you need to explain that unless they are of the age requirement of the app it’s not appropriate, remind them that private stuff needs protecting, and you can only really know someone if you know them face to face. It’s important they understand that not everyone is who they say they are online, and that they need to let you know if someone is trying to talk them they don’t know. When they want to use social media such as Facebook, you may want to make it a requirement that you are a “friend” so you can see what is happening. Also, provide them a real gauge as to what is appropriate to post or discuss online, such as “don’t’ post anything you wouldn’t want your Grandmother to read or see.”
It is important for parents to understand the responsibility they have in teaching their children how to safely navigate through the online world, and to ensure they have healthy online interactions. Whilst many of us feel this is a whole new world out there, it’s important your children know that you understand the risks online and that you are there if they need help, and will take their concerns seriously. The online world offers many wonderful opportunities; we just need to be mindful not everyone uses technology with the best of intentions.
For more information or professional advice contact Sydney’s leading Child Clinical Psychologist, Dr Anna Cohen at Kids & Co. – www.kidsandco.com.au
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