Online safety tips over the winter holidays for parents
We could give you three guesses as to which gifts are at the top of children’s Christmas list this year, but we think just the one will do the trick. You guessed it- Gadgets!
Children and young people are adopting gadgets such as tablets, smartphones and gaming consoles at an ever-increasing rate, with an astounding 80% of 8-11 year olds owning tablets and a whopping 73% of teenagers now owning smartphones.
Technology, the internet and social media platforms offer a plethora of opportunities for children and young people such as making friends, exploring new ideas, learning and having fun. Despite this, of course, such platforms present children and young people with risk. It is therefore vital that we teach them to navigate the online space safely and responsibly.
With the new tech wrapped and under the tree, what better excuse than the winter holidays to kick-start the conversation- but where do we begin?
Having a discussion with your children doesn’t have to be a daily occurrence, nor does it need to be hours long. Every so often, we suggest beginning your conversations casually, with questions such as:
- What’s your favorite website?
- What are your favorite online games?
- Do you use these websites every day?
Having gained some insight into which websites, apps and social media sites they are interested in, you will be able to guide the conversation to help them understand the dangers and inappropriate content they may come across.
You may want to consider asking them what they deem to be inappropriate or what dangers they think exist online. Consider offering your own stories such as stumbling across inappropriate content on social media- get them thinking about what they are posting online! This will allow you to gauge how much they know about the topic and how much detail you may need to go into. With this, it is important not to assume that they are engaging in risky behavior nor to be alarmed- try to continue the calm nature of the conversation. To achieve this, you may want to encourage a dialogue between yourself and your child about the opportunities and positive impacts these websites create.
As you have spoken about both the opportunities and risks that being online can create, you can now gear the conversation towards establishing boundaries, whilst ensuring your children are a part of the decision making process. You may want to think about discussing the following:
Usage limitations– Are they going over their data allowance? Are they downloading paid for apps?
Age restrictions– Are they accessing appropriate apps for their age group?
Location tracking– Are they sharing their location on social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat?
From this, you are able to discover the appropriate boundaries that should be in place in order to keep your children safe online, without completely wrapping them in cotton wool! But how do we do this?
Ensure security and privacy settings are set
By opening up these discussions, you will be able to present the importance of their own personal security online and the importance of keeping their information private. To put into practice, there are number of security and privacy settings that you may wish to consider.
- Establish appropriate privacy settings on their current social media sites
- Ensure they are not unwittingly sharing their location online by disabling location services on your children’s iPhone within parental controls
- Make sure all current and future app downloads are not requesting and receiving data
Consider contacting your children’s mobile network and your home internet service provider to implement web access filtering in order to minimize the risk of accessing inappropriate content.
Age appropriate apps:
Take a look at Common Sense Media’s handy “best of” list of apps which are categorized by age range.
What to ask your children’s school
It is fundamental that school staff are actively safeguarding children online. Similarly to setting boundaries, as well as security and privacy settings in the home, you may start to wonder whether the same processes are in place when your children are away at school. Below are a few questions you may wish to ask:
- Are they educating students on digital citizenship?
- How do they detect early warning signs of online risk?
- Do they have appropriate filtering and monitoring systems in place to identify risk?
- Do they have a reporting system in place for a child who is concerned?
Posing these questions to your school community can spark conversation more widely on how they are currently promoting digital citizenship, as well as ways in which they are safeguarding children in a digital context. Schools cannot fully prevent risk from occurring, but by educating students to be good digital citizens and by detecting risk early, they are able to intervene and safeguard effectively. If they do not currently have anything in place to do so, you may want to suggest:
- Establishing a digital citizenship program to understand the importance of online safety
- Implementing an active monitoring system in order to detect early warning signs of risk
- Introducing an anonymous reporting tool for students to report any concerns they may have about themselves or another student
Found these tips useful? Tweet us and let us know!
Last of all… Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year from all of the Impero team!