The Internet has brought a host of new opportunities for exploration and communication. Children constantly seek out entertaining ways of escapism, as well as connecting with like-minded individuals, learning new skills and showcasing their creativity. However, as the Internet becomes ever more widespread among children, the issue of e-Safety becomes ever more important.
The answer to keeping them safe is not to stop children and young adults from accessing the Internet on mobiles or tablets. Talking to them about their online behaviour – the sites they visit, and what they enjoy most – helps develop an open dialogue. It also encourages them to approach you about anything on the Internet that makes them uncomfortable. Such conversations should be light and occur regularly to help them understand better.
- Ask them to involve you in their online activities
As you would ask your child to show you their favourite toy, book or a game offline, ask them to show you what they like doing online. Have a genuine interest in what your child likes as this will help them open up to you more about the kind of activities they engage in online.
Remember, however, that youngsters may get defensive about involving you in their online activities. They may even assume you to be an overbearing parent or teacher. Keep a relaxed approach and flexible boundaries to show you support them and have their best interests at heart.
- Warn them about strangers
Children do not consider online friend requests from strangers as unusual. For youngsters, such requests are a means to increase their followers or friends’ list. By explaining to them that it is easy for people to provide false information online, you, as a parent or teacher, can help them equate online and offline situations, where a stranger would actually approach them and ask nosy questions or try to befriend them.
A research study found that children had difficulty in applying the safety principles consistently across platforms, though they could repeat everything that they had learned. It also stated that many children failed to understand the reasons behind such measures. This was because parents felt they were too young to know about the nature of risks involved.
Thus, it is necessary to educate them about the “hows” and “whys” of Internet safety.
- Ensure age appropriate content
Many websites, social networks, and games have an age rating. Such ratings are in place to keep children safe. Don’t let them sign up for websites or games for which they may be under age or may involve in-game purchases. According to an article by Parent Zone UK, in-game purchases may lead to online gambling among young adults, leading to addictive behaviours.
- Agree upon acceptable norms of online behaviour
There has been a shift in the devices used for accessing the Internet, according to a 2016 study. Children and youngsters use mobiles more often to go online. As the Internet can be accessed away from home as well, it is important to discuss with your child what is and what is not allowed to be accessed online. Helping them understand what is and is not suitable will work better than just forcing your views on them.
- Educate them on privacy settings and reporting tools
Many gaming sites and social network websites have privacy settings and reporting tools. Educate them on how to keep their personal information private across all platforms. Emphasise that it is not necessary to provide all the information asked for. Explain what they should do if they receive messages that upset or frighten them, or if they come across content they find disturbing or worrisome.
- Encourage evaluation of online information
In 2015, a study found that the majority of the children and youngsters thought that all information available online was always true. As a parent or a teacher, it is important to educate them in verifying information by comparing it with other sources. Encourage them to refer to a library to get relevant and trusted sites for their studies.
Children and young adults need to exercise a certain level of alertness and judgement when accessing online content. Reach out to us to learn more about safeguarding children online.