Resident digital expert and author of Raising children in a digital age Bex Lewis shares her top tips for keeping children safe online.
1. Don’t view the Internet as a wild west; it runs by the same rules as the offline world: so don’t assume that children know it all. Learn to be aware of what a scam looks like, and where the positive opportunities are online.
2. Learn how to use the privacy settings on social media. These have been made easier to find and edit, so work with your child on their privacy settings and be aware of what they are using.
3. Understand the different ages for social media sites. Most are for children aged 13 and over as that’s when children are ready for an online social interaction. Think about the message you’re sending if you encourage them to break the age rule!
4. As a family, work on an ‘Internet Safety Agreement’, for age appropriate access and to make the internet a normal topic. The importance of communication cannot be over-emphasised and ensures that they want to talk to you rather than some stranger online.
5. Be wary of sharing information that establishes a regular routine, like giving away information about where you go to school, or at what time you go to the gym.
6. The Internet can be both temporary and permanent. Things can disappear without a trace, or something can stick around for a long time. Spend a bit longer double checking what you’ve written before pressing send!
7. Encourage children not to share their passwords with other users. They may think that they’re going to be friends forever, but passwords should be personal and changed regularly.
8. Understand that cyber-bullying is not a ‘rite of passage’ nor something that children need to go through. They’re not ‘just words’, and should be taken seriously if your child is being bullied, or even, the bully themselves.
9. Illegal phone apps and sites often contain malicious software – so discourage your children from downloading content from unknown sources.
10. Think about what kind of role model you set for your children and other people in your circle. Look for age-appropriate games, and stay with them – the internet isn’t a babysitter. And where you can, find opportunities to use the online to give new opportunities offline!