In this digital age, it is becoming more and more difficult to track whether your kids are being safe online. Making sure your children know the dos and don'ts of the internet isn't as daunting as it may seem, and there are lots of tools and tricks out there to make your job even easier.
Cyberbullying, inappropriate content or even grooming is at the forefront of parents' minds and to help you get that peace of mind, here are five ways to make your children's online lives safer this summer:
1) 'Stranger Danger' is the same online as off - don't reveal personal information to anyone you don't know
The internet is often used to escape reality, but be careful the lines don't blur too much. We teach our children from a very young age not to speak to or go anywhere with people they don't know - but this basic rule of 'stranger danger' can feel like it doesn't apply when the person you are interacting with isn't stood next to you. People feel much more comfortable doing things online, which they might otherwise not do in person, and will take information they are given at face value.
Reminding children that their actions online have real world consequences ensures that they understand their online life is an extension of their physical life.
2) Use parental controls and never let young children browse alone
Parental controls top most of the lists of tools for staying safe and for good reason. Not only are they free, they are also extremely effective at blocking harmful content from your children's monitors.
The controls are often provided by your internet provider, and allow you to filter out harmful content, control the amount of time your children spend online, stop in-app purchases or downloads and review what your children are doing on the internet. It's also wise not to let children under 10 browse the internet alone.
3) Be involved in your children's online life
Making the internet a taboo subject can be disastrous when trying to teach children the dangers of online browsing. This is because it makes the child feel as if they are doing something they shouldn't be, and as most parents will know, kids love to do things they shouldn't! This is why the approach you take when outlining the rules of the internet can be vital to guaranteeing your children's future safety.
I always suggest a warm, non-judgemental approach to open a trusted line of communication with them. Building trust is key to making sure your children feel that they can come to you with any problems they encounter whilst browsing online. If you know what's happening, you can nip any problems or potentially dangerous situations in the bud.
4) Make lessons about online safety regular and simple, without making it a big deal, from an early age
Don't sit children down for a long-winded, flustered or embarrassing talk about the dangers of the internet as key points can get missed and forgotten about when you're done.
Keeping the conversations simple, regular, and from an early age, allows children to grow up with a good understanding of the internet, without feeling intimidated by it. Consistent messages and regular conversations will remind them of how to stay safe and, coupled with tip number 3, they'll know they can come to you with any problems or questions they have as they arise.
5) Ask older children to add you on social media platforms - and remind them that anything said or done online could be permanent
When your children move into their teenage years, they will want to be involved in social media and use sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. This presents a new online challenge for parents - ban them from using the platforms all their friends are on, or stop policing their use of the internet and accept it as part of life?
One of the biggest worries for parents in the UK is cyberbullying, however there are ways to counteract this and put yourself at more ease. Allow them to set up accounts if they agree to accept you as a friend/follower and/or give you the password to their accounts. By agreeing this with them from the outset, you can keep an eye on their online life without breaching their privacy.
Teenagers should also be taught to consider how their activity online now could affect them in the future. Remind them that anything they do or say on social media platforms, forums, blogs and comment sections could be permanent, and may impact them when they're older.
Keeping your children safe online can seem like a daunting and insurmountable task, but done well the lessons you teach them now will continue to protect them well into their adult life. If you'd like to read more advice articles like this head over to Childcare.co.uk's safety centre.