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Sand, Screen And Surf: Why Summer Is The Ideal Time To Teach Your Kids About Internet Safety

23/08/2016 13:38 | Updated 23 August 2016

Sand, screen and surf: Why summer is the ideal time to teach your kids about internet safety

By Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of Internet Matters

You wouldn't think twice about putting sunscreen on your child when you go to the beach on holiday - or helping them cross the road safely on the way.

And just like this, teaching children about internet safety should become second nature for parents - and the summer holidays is the ideal time to start.

Our research shows the average child aged between eight and 16 will be using social media for 130 hours over the summer holidays, and using their smartphones to go online for an average of 3.4 hours a day.

Meanwhile eight out of 10 children admit they go over their daily time limit set by parents.

And the summer holidays gives children even more opportunity than normal to be using the internet while they're off school. How many of us have been grateful for tablets, smartphones and computer consoles to keep their children entertained over the long six week break?

The internet is a force for good and should be embraced. The summer holidays provide an ideal opportunity for parents to start a conversation about how to explore the web safely, setting boundaries, learning and enjoying it together.

Setting boundaries on your children's technology when they are off school can seem like a daunting task.

The internet offers children the opportunity to create, learn and socialise, but getting them to put down their smartphone or tablet and go outside during the summer can be a challenge.

As parents it's difficult to know how much screen time is too much, but if you're constantly asking yourself 'how do I persuade my teenager to turn off Snapchat and have a conversation?', then it's probably time to moderate their usage.

There are a number of things you can do to help manage your child's screen time. Firstly, talk to them about the time they spend online to better understand what they're doing, tell them your concerns and agree on an appropriate length of time that they can use their device. Think about putting in place a family agreement to set some boundaries and start a conversation about positive online use. Set a good example with your own device use and get the whole family to unplug and play by creating 'screen free' zones at home.

If you'd like more control over the time they spend on their device you can use apps to help. For example, the Forest app is a great tool that enables them to grow a beautiful forest of different trees each day when they don't use their phone for a set amount of time.

One way to get creative is finding websites and apps that will help you learn and play together. Whether your child's already out hunting for Pokémon or they've created a channel on YouTube and vowed to be the next Zoella, there are a number of ways you can get involved too. If your child is a Minecraft pro, why not join in as well. If you use shared Wi-Fi a number of people can be in the same game. If you've got a trainer on your hands who has taken to Pokémon Go like a duck to water, go out with them to 'catch em all'.

For a little bit of learning through play, Osmo and Duolingo are great educational games. You need to buy some Osmo kit, but it offers a range of games from simple spelling to coding that are intuitive. Each game uses physical pieces that are mirrored on an iPad. If you'd like to learn a new language with your child the free Duolingo app can help you learn up to 11 languages from Portuguese to Swedish. Toca Vacation is another great app to get you and your child's imagination going. From picking different forms of travel to all sorts of holiday activities it's a great way to create and explore. Or why not challenge your child and learn about online safety together with the free Internet Matters tablet app?

So this summer, instead of removing your child's technology, why not try getting involved. The more you find out about their digital world, the safer they will be.

*For more information and step-by-step guides, go to internetmatters.org or download the free Internet Matters tablet app available through the App Store or Google Play.

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