The next Safer Internet Day is Tuesday 11th February 2020.
The internet can be a powerful tool for learning but it’s also a place where your child could encounter dangerous material or people. With some practical internet safety precautions, you can help your child enjoy the benefits of the internet while minimising the risks. Connected to the internet, your computer, mobile phone, tablet, TV and other devices bring the whole world into your family life – the best and the worst of what’s out there. When you take some practical internet safety precautions, you protect your child from risky or inappropriate content and activities. And your child gets to make the most of his/her online experience, with its potential for learning, exploring, being creative and connecting with others.
You can help your children use the internet safely by monitoring, protecting and teaching them, and by learning about the internet yourself, if you’re not familiar or comfortable with it.
The office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner has devised a number of initiatives to help educate children and their carer’s on the Safe use of the internet.
Resources aimed at Primary School children include Games & Quizzes, Hector’s World and Zippep’s Astro Circus, offering practical guidance on how to manage risks and reinforce the importance of responsible online behaviour (Resource: www.esafety.gov.au)
While Secondary School resources such as #GameOn, Be Deadly Online and Tagged have been developed to assist older students to:
- understand the possible consequences of posting images
- be a good bystander
- communicate online respectfully and to
- understand how to report inappropriate material and contact.
Learning to use the internet safely is like learning to cross the street. Your child needs time, practice and careful guidance from you and other trusted people, like teachers. www.raisingchildren.net.au (The Australian Parenting Website) suggest you can monitor and supervise your child’s use of the internet in several ways:
- Talk with all family members about internet access. Monitoring works best if you can have calm and frank discussions with your child about his internet activities.
- Keep your desktop computer in a family area, or make sure your child uses tablets, phones and hand-held devices where you can see him/her. If possible, avoid online activity in a study or bedroom. This helps you keep an eye on how long your child is online as well as what websites she’s visiting.
- Turn off all internet-accessing devices at night, including mobile phones, and keep portable devices in a common family space.
- Together with your child, set up some simple and fair rules about internet use. For example, set a reasonable limit on your child’s screen time. Discuss how these rules apply outside your home – for example, at the local library. When your child follows the rules, give him lots of positive feedback.
- Let your child know that social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram don’t allow children aged under 13 years to set up accounts. You can direct your child to more age-appropriate sites such as Moshi Monsters or Club Penguin instead. If they insist, make sure you know their passwords or make them “friend” you on Facebook to discourage them posting anything they don’t want “Mum” to see!
- Check the websites your child has been visiting by using the History tab in your browser.
They also suggest you could discuss and agree on a written internet use contract with your child. This can include things like how long your child can be online each day and where your child is allowed to use his/her device. It can also include rules about you knowing your child’s passcode and checking their browsing history. You could note consequences for breaking the agreement too.
Protecting your child online
There are several things you can do to protect your child when he/she is on the internet:
- Use a family-friendly internet service provider (ISP). This is an ISP that has agreed to offer families information and tools to make the internet experience safer for children. Curbi is an Australian developed app that allows parents, via their own smart phone or computer, to direct/block or monitor all devices used by their kids. Free 14-day trial then $6.99 per month (curbi.com). Net Nanny is a customizable safe internet browser that you can install on any ioS or android device to protect your kids from online predators, pornography and cyber bullying, costing $7.99 (netnanny.com).
- Help your child identify unsuitable material by naming some things to look out for. For example, ‘If you see a site with scary or rude pictures, swearing or angry words, let me know. It’s not a good site for you to look at’.
- When your child gets a new app, joins a new website, starts a new account, signs up to a newsletter and so on, make sure the first thing you do is check and set privacy settings. Select the strictest privacy settings, turn off location sharing and so on.
- Tell your child not to share personal details online. This includes surname, address, phone number, birth date and school.
- Ask your child to let you know if a person she doesn’t know contacts her via email, instant message, social networking and so on. Block this person from your child’s account immediately then ensure that your child understands that people he/she meets and chats to online need to be treated with serious caution. These people could be pretending to be someone they’re not to gain your child’s trust. Some even pretend to be another child so they can exploit and befriend children.
- Bcyberwise monster family game is an Australia app game for children aged 8 – 13 that teaches online security and hones cyber safety skills. It’s free and can be found at lifeeducation.org.au
- teensafe.com is a more controversial US app. It allows parents to spy on kids’ internet usage, call history and text messages, including deleted texts. There is a free 7 day trial, then $14.95 per month.
These are just some of the many things you can do to educate and protect your children. Online learning is here to stay so by taking the time to be “Internet Safe” we can ensure our children remain safe while also benefitting as much as possible from all the good things the internet has to offer!
For more information see www.saferinternetday.org