Helping our children navigate the digital world safely

5.02.2020

By Christie Sinclair
Student Protection Officer
Townsville Catholic Education

Safer Internet Day will be held next Tuesday on the 11th of February. It is a worldwide event that raises awareness about online safety and encourages everyone to help create a better internet. I am big believer that education is prevention, if you know what the risks are, you're in a better position to help your child be safe 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 that we are engaged with what our 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. It is important for children and young people to know that they can talk to you, no matter what.

Try playing the games they are playing and educate yourself on how to use the apps they are using. Before my children get to download any new games or apps, I always research it to check what the functions are and what I should be aware of as a parent. I also try to play it or set it up myself before I let them do it. I would encourage children to play their devices in living areas to avoid them being in their bedrooms. This way you will hear what they hear, or you get to have a quick look at what they are doing when you walk past. 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? Is it impacting on their ability to sleep or physical activity? Use these answers to guide you in finding the right balance. I commonly hear from friends and family that they notice a decline in their children’s behaviour when they have been playing their devices for too long, and this is something I also noticed in my own family. 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. Before my children even start playing their iPads, they are told how long they will be able to play them. I find this stops the arguments when it’s time for them to to put the iPad away.

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 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.

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