Expert Advice on Keeping Your Kids Safe Online
With so many wonderful resources and as a great source of entertainment, you might find it important to have your child involved with the internet, but it’s just as important that you and your kids know the best ways to stay safe and are equipped with the tools you will need if you ever encounter danger. In general, a blanket-ban on web use is less effective than teaching your child (in an age-appropriate manner) about internet safety. After all, it could just stop them from being open about their activities. We had a chat with the parenting experts at everymum.ie about cyberbulling and how to keep your child safe online, and they left us with these tips…
Start the Conversation
You should check in daily with your children about what they’re doing online. Ask them what is fun about the internet, what can go wrong and how they would cope with it. Have a conversation with them about what is okay and not okay to do online. Encourage them to look after their friends, and encourage them to come to you if there’s something they encounter that makes them uneasy. If they do come to you with such a problem, it’s important to stay calm and not freak out.
Most computers, tablets and smartphones have safety features installed, so make sure these are activated before you give your child access.. Other sites and apps will have different security settings, so learn how to adjust security and privacy settings, and how to block/report inappropriate items if necessary. It’s also a good idea to turn location services off, and create a pin for the app store so you can check before they download any new apps and games. You can check the age-recommendation of games on https://pegi.info/
Spot the Signs
Some signs of cyberbulling include outward signs of stress or anxiety, not wanting to tell anyone the issue, wanting to spend more time online, or none at all, growing secrecy, a loss of self esteem or trouble with sleep or school. They could also be nervous or agitated after being online, become aggressive towards others, act out for extra attention or have unexplained headaches, tummy aches and trouble eating.
Do Your Research
Okay, as your children grow up they’ll probably know far more about the latest technology trends than you. But that’s exactly why you should take time to familiarise yourself with the sites, apps, and social media platforms they use. Peer pressure is often a motive for children to be online too, so just by taking this away means they’ll feel left out. And let’s be serious: If you're not online these days, you’re missing out a lot on educational things too. So if your child comes to you about setting up a social media account or want to play an online game, make sure that you know how and what it entails. Not knowing what something is can be scary, so educate yourself and know what to expect.
If you do allow your child to be online or use a particular app, make sure you’re involved. Talk to them about what they like about it and why. Agree on basic ground rules, like not accepting friend requests from strangers and always keep an eye on what they are doing and saying online. Once again encourage them to always talk to you if anything makes them upset or worried. If your child shows signs of bullying, stay calm and listen, be patient, and find ways to boost your child’s self-esteem in other areas by encouraging out- of school activities.
Help is at Hand
You and your child are not alone. Get in touch with your child’s school – they will be able to keep an extra eye on your child, and take appropriate measures in line with their anti-bullying policy. Contact internet service providers, to insure that inappropriate behaviour is reported, and blocked. If the cyberbullying is potentially criminal, you may also choose to contact local Gardaí, or if you need more information and advice, check out webwise.ie, ispcc.ie, bully4u.ie or internet safety.ie. You can also contact Childline at 1800 66 66 66.