How to keep your child safe on the Internet!

With school closures, remote learning and self-isolation in place across most of the world, many children are getting even more screen-time than usual. So just as it is important for us as parents to help our children prepare for interactions in the physical world, it is also important for us to show them how to be safe on the Internet. Children often use different websites and apps to their parents and it can be tricky keeping up in this ever-changing digital world! There can be some common risks that children face online including what they see, what they do and who they are talking to. 

The good news is that knowledge is power.

The more that you as parents know about the risks, then the better you can help them to keep safe. You can do this by talking to your children about online safety, agreeing on boundaries with them and of course, choosing age-appropriate apps and websites. You can also set privacy settings together, set parental controls and show them how to keep themselves secure. Talk to them about what they think is normal online and what behaviour you expect for them and from others. You should encourage them to keep questioning what they see online and not take it as gospel. It is important that they know where they can go to get information that they can trust. You can also help them to have a healthy suspicion of whether people are who they say they are. 

Encryption is also really important, this is one of the most powerful tools that parents can use to help keep their children safe online. Put simply, it is a way of ‘scrambling’ information to make it unreadable to any ‘bad guys’ who want to access it. When the message is sent, it is encrypted, so no 3rd party can decrypt it and read the message. When it gets to the recipient, it is decrypted and received so they can read it. Some apps are end-to-end encrypted such as WhatsApp, so look out for others that have this. You should also look out for websites that are secure and have a lock symbol by the URL. 

So here are my top ten tips on keeping them secure and safe while using the internet:

  1. Talk openly with your child about their online activity.
  2. Where possible keep screens and devices where you can see them, especially for younger children.
  3. Use your parental controls and search restrictions.
  4. Know who your children’s online friends are.
  5. Teach your child to only share images and personal information with people who they know and trust.
  6. Turn off location services to that you keep their location private. 
  7. Look out for and try to use encrypted apps and secure websites.
  8. Keep track of their online time, perhaps even having a ‘screen-free’
  9. Report any suspicious activity.
  10. Lead by example - this one is particularly hard at the moment, as a lot of us are balancing working at home along with homeschooling our children. It can be difficult to limit our own screen time because of this, but try to model the kind of positive behaviour that you would like your child to use online. 

We don’t want to create fear in your children or prevent them from using the Internet for all of the many educational, and of course social benefits, but let’s give them the skills and knowledge to use it safely and avoid any potential dangers! More tips can be found here.



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