Talking to your child about online safety
The Internet poses potential dangers to everyone, but for children the hazards can be particularly acute. Many children are so technologically able they may give little thought to online threats, and it can be difficult for concerned parents to keep track of what they are doing online; but this very proficiency can lead to complacency, and a lack of circumspection to the very real dangers being online presents.
Children will quite naturally lack any instinctual fear about about being online. If they were climbing a tree, or going swimming for the first time, their instincts would naturally kick in, letting them know that even if the branch looks strong it still may be dangerous, and that the water poses potential risks. The internet will elicit no such fears though - very likely they have been looking at screens since they were a baby. What do they have to fear from devices that have been entertaining them with cartoons and games all their lives?
As adults we need to know the potential dangers being online poses to children, and we must vigilantly ensure children are appraised as to these risks. We cant always be looking over their shoulder, and there will be many times when they are alone, with the entire internet as their playground.
Perhaps the first thing to teach children is that not everyone online is who they claim to be. Just because someone on a chatroom claims to be the same age as them age, or someone on social media says they go to their school, doesn`t necessarily make it true.
They should be taught never share any photographs or video - or indeed any personal content - at the mere request of someone online. This means that if someone contacts them asking for their full name, phone number, or any images, they should refuse, and tell you about what has happened.
Cyberbullying is a huge problem in today`s society, and you should tell your child that it is just as bad to mistreat someone online as it is in day to day life. An inappropriate act is not lessened because it took place online as opposed to in `the real world.` If your child has been made to feel bad by someone online, they should know they can tell you about it, that it is just as serious as if they were mistreated by a person standing in front of them.
If your child is old enough to use social media accounts, and you feel comfortable for them to be using such sites, you should ensure their privacy settings are set correctly. All social media platforms will have the facility to fine tune who can see any posts made. In this way you can be assured only pre-approved individuals can view your child`s account. If they are permitted to accept `friends` on their accounts, you should reiterate to them that they must exercise caution, reminding them that not everyone online is who they claim to be.
Almost all children enjoy playing online games, and using apps, but they need to be cautioned about incurring any fees while enjoying these activities. Many games offer enticing `upgrades` or `special features,` to a player`s character, acquisitions that often come with a surreptitious price tag. There are many stories of parents letting their children play games on their phones or tablets, only to find themselves billed for in-game purchases, sometimes for hundreds of pounds!
Your child should know that there must be no secrets when it comes to their time spent online. You will want to let them know they can tell you about anything upsetting they encounter, and you will not be angry with them. If they inform you they have seen something inappropriate, the very worst reaction would be to become annoyed with them. It`s likely they have made the revelation because they feel upset by what they have witnessed - reprimanding them will leave them feeling guilty when they need your support, while also making it less likely for them to inform you of any inappropriate content they come across in the future.
The internet is going to be a huge part of your child`s life, both socially and professionally. By establishing good online practises from their early years they will lean to have a safe and enjoyable time online, and benefit from all the internet has to offer.