The internet has opened up the world – it’s easier than ever to communicate and learn. But children today face many issues their parents didn’t encounter, such as cyberbullying, sexting and online grooming
As a parent it can be worrying, but Internet Matters, a not-for-profit e-safety organisation has a wealth of free online advice about all the issues kids might face.
As many of us make resolutions at the start of a new year, we’ve created seven internet-safety resolutions - small things you can do to help your son or daughter stay safe online:
1: I will regularly talk to my child
Good communication is one of the most important things you can do to keep your children safe.
If your child is pre-teen, talk honestly about the things they might encounter and the benefits/drawbacks of social networks before they start using them.
Make teens aware what they do online can impact their future, so they should think carefully before they post or share. Don’t be afraid to talk about issues such as sexting and pornography – however embarrassing it might be.
Encourage them to be a good digital citizen and treat others how they want to be treated.
Let your child know they can always talk to you if they have an online issue – whatever it is.
Internet Matters has e-safely advice for children of different ages.
2: I will take an interest in what my child does online
When it comes to the keeping kids safe, it can be easy to just leave them to their gadgets. But by understanding what they are doing online, you can pre-empt any problems and both feel at ease talking about it.
With young children, explore the internet, apps and games together - show them suitable apps and websites.
Ask older children to show you what they are doing online. When they start using social media, talk to them about some of the risks.
3: I will use parental controls
All UK broadband providers offer router-based filters you can use to regulate the type of content your children can access when they connect to your home wi-fi. They take minutes to activate, but allow you to block inappropriate content such as violence and pornography.
BT Broadband Parental Controls has three levels of filter: ‘Light’, ‘Moderate’ and ‘Strict’, each blocking different types of content. You can set filter times and create a block list of websites you don’t want your children to see. Find out more about BT Parental Controls.
As well as broadband controls, phones, tablets and games consoles have native parental controls you can activate. Internet Matters has an interactive guide to help you find them.
4: I will take control of my children’s technology use
As a parent or guardian, you need to determine when and for how long your child goes online or uses tablets, phones and games consoles.
Whatever your child’s age, you can set rules about how often they use technology, this could be a set time each evening or weekend. With young children, agree the type of sites they can visit.
BT’s Parental Controls let you add filters for Homework Time, which blocks children from using things like social networks or gaming at specific times of the day, when they are connected to your router.
As your child gets older, consider a family online safety contract, a set of rules you both sign up to, where they agree when and where they can use their gadgets.
5: I will encourage social technology use
Tablets and smartphones are so portable they can be used anywhere, but try to encourage your children to use them in a kitchen, living room or social area, rather than being shut away in their bedroom.
You’ll be able to see how long they spend online and gauge their emotional reaction to what they are doing online.
6: I will do my e-safety homework
Facebook and Snapchat you’ve probably heard of, but what about Kik or MyLOL? Social networks are launching all the time, some more suitable for children than others. Ask your child what they like using, then do your own research. Internet Matters has a parents’ guide about children’s apps to help.
Social networks, along with apps and games have age ratings, which are a useful suitability guide. Remember you don’t have to stick to them, Facebook has a minimum age rating of 13, but you may feel your child isn’t emotionally mature enough to use it.
If your child wants a new game or app, check out Common Sense media. It has independent reviews of apps, games and TV programs, which include ratings for violence, language and sexual content, along with suggested family talking points.
Read more in our article: 10 apps kids are talking about every parent needs to know.
7: I will check privacy settings
There will be a point when your child wants to start using social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
Once you’ve talked to them about the risks, take practical steps to make sure their social network profile is secure. This includes controlling who can see their posts, send them friend requests and turning off location information.
Internet Matters has helpful advice on keeping your child safe on social networks.