12 tips for online safety this Christmas
21st December 2015
Gone are the days of a single orange slipped into a stocking. Tablet devices, video games and the latest gadgets will no doubt be featuring heavily on children’s Christmas wish lists this year. Young people are adopting these devices more than ever, backed-up with a report by Ofcom released earlier this year which revealed that the number of children using a tablet device had risen to 53% from 39% in 2014 for 3-4 year olds and to 75% from 64% in 2014 for 5-15 year olds.
We now have hoverboards, drones, tablets, smartphones and wearable devices, but with the NSPCC reporting a 42% rise in online grooming cases, it’s no wonder parents are seeking advice about keeping their children safe this Christmas.
That’s why we’ve collated these 12 tips for online safety from a range of key sources, including the UK Safer Internet Centre, to support parents concerned about their child’s online safety this Christmas.
top 12 tips for online safety
1. First things first: before wrapping any tablets, smartphones or gaming consoles this Christmas, make sure you activate parental controls and safety features to ensure your child is well-supported to use these technologies safely. Take a look at these handy resources, created by the UK Safer Internet Centre, which provide information for parents about the most popular devices. Some devices come with parental controls already in place, but you should make sure you ask the vendor or shop the right questions before purchasing. And this shoppers checklist will help you to ask those all important questions.
2. Whatever devices, platforms or accounts your child is using, check that any usernames they’ve created do not give away personal information such as name, age, location, or school. Don’t forget about images, too; set rules for your child such as only allowing the use of animated avatars, as opposed to genuine photos of themselves.
3. Establish boundaries for downloading games, applications or other material by making it clear this is only allowed with your permission.
4. Encourage your child to report any unusual icons, messages or content, which makes them feel uncomfortable or that they don’t understand, to an adult they trust immediately. Ensure they know how to block or report offensive or inappropriate messages, content or users on social networking sites and gaming platforms. You can find more information about the privacy and safety tools available with different social networking platforms here.
5. Whether your child owns an Xbox, PlayStation, tablet, or a PC, stay clued-up on which games are age appropriate for your child. All UK games must be allocated a PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating, which determines whether the game is suitable for ages 3 up to 18 and beyond.
6. Don’t be afraid to play any games yourself, watch YouTube videos or research reviews to assess the game’s content, so you’re clear on all the ins and outs, before giving it to your child. Even if the game is age appropriate, this allows you to make an informed decision on whether or not you allow your child to play the game.
7. Online gaming allows users to play in real time with other gamers from across the globe via an internet-enabled device such as PC, tablet, smartphone or games console. Does your child know how to protect themselves when playing with others online, on social networking sites or forums? Remind them not to share any personal information with people they meet online – these people are still strangers, regardless of how friendly they are or how long they’ve been talking to your child.
8. Have regular open and honest conversations about how your child uses technology, how they navigate the internet, who they speak to online, who they play games with, and what websites and content they access. Make these conversations the norm, not a one-off discussion, and make sure you’re asking them the ‘who, what and where’ questions to give you the full picture of their online behaviour.
9. Even with parental controls in place, it’s vital that you encourage your child to become independent online and a good digital citizen. This will enable them to learn how to navigate the internet safely and assess risk for themselves, using what you’ve taught them early on about their online reputation for the rest of their digital lives.
10. Christmas holidays for young people will always be jam-packed with meeting up with friends and social events. Teach your child the importance of only meeting friends they’ve met online with an adult’s or carer’s permission and the meeting should only take place when they’re accompanied by the adult who gave permission. Remind your child that even if they go with a friend, they could be putting them in danger too.
11. If you’re wrapping up a tablet or smartphone for your child this Christmas, you might be concerned about the types of apps they’ll be downloading. This handy guide from Internet Matters provides a list of all the apps (categorised by age group) your children will enjoy, including YouTube Kids, a child-friendly version of the video sharing site.
12. Finally, take an interest and make time for enjoying technology together as a family. Are there any games you could play together? What school work could you help them with using online resources? What could you do more to use the internet together?
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