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Helping our children navigate the digital world safely

10 May 2022 | Posted in Student Protection

Helping our children navigate the digital world safely

Christie Sinclair

By Christie Sinclair

Student Protection Officer

Townsville Catholic Education

Safer Internet Day was held on the 8th of February 2022.   It is a worldwide annual event that raises awareness about online safety and encourages everyone to help create a safer internet. Understanding the risks is vital in ensuring that children and young people have a safe experience online.

Parents should be aware of ‘The Big 6’ - online risks which can place children and young people in unsafe situations online:

The Big 6!

  • Cyberbullying;
  • Online pornography;
  • Sending nudes and sexting;
  • Time online;
  • Online gaming; and
  • Unwanted contact and grooming.

As parents we should adopt some online safety basics at home to help our children navigate the digital world safely:

Be aware:

It is important to stay engaged with what your children are doing online.  Ask your child about their online experiences, who they are talking to and whether they have experienced any issues.  Ask them if they have been contacted by anyone that they do not personally know. Current research shows that 1 in 4 children/young people will be approached by a stranger online.  It is important for children and young people to know that they can talk to you, no matter what.

Try playing the games that they are playing and educate yourself on how to use the apps they are using. Research the games prior to downloading and what the functions are, then play the games yourself so that you know what it is all about.  Children should always use their devices in a busier part of the home so it is easier to supervise - like the loungeroom.  If they start to be secretive about what they are doing, this is a red flag that it might be something inappropriate.

Set some boundaries:

Set family rules for devices and online access and model this to your child.  Set age appropriate rules and be sure to allow ‘device free’ time or limit the amount of time they spend on devices. When deciding what this limit should be, try considering the impact this has on their overall health. Is it preventing them from engaging in face to face connections with family or friends?You may notice a decline in your child’s behaviour after they have been using their device.  Consider these behaviour changes and again use this as a guide to work out what might be an appropriate amount of time for your child to spend on their device. Be clear with them how long you will allow them to use their device, this helps to save any arguments when it is time to switch off.

Complete a privacy audit:

Complete a privacy audit for all devices and social media apps.  Be sure to check privacy settings within each app, ensure microphones and location settings are turned off. Some apps and games do not automatically set profiles to private, meaning that strangers can contact your children. Spend the time to check that in each game, app or social media platform that the profiles are set to private. Educate yourself on how each game or app works.  There are a number of websites dedicated to explaining these to parents so you can make informed decisions and help guide your children to be safe online.

Check out the eSafety Commission for lots more information and safety tips. 

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