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Talking to your child about cyber safety

3rd May 2019

Talking to your child about cyber safety 

Talking to our children about their safety online can seem like a difficult conversation to have.  Where do I start? What do I say? Are there things that I shouldn't say?

As parents, we are always wanting to do the right thing and keep our children safe but sometimes it's difficult to know how to get these messages across. The introduction of multiple social media platforms has made this discussion even harder!

t’s easy to be dismissive of a child’s online activity because you don’t understand it or care much for it yourself, however playing an active role in their online activities can help you to protect them and can assist you in guiding them to become more aware of potential risks online.

Cyberbullying is becoming an increasing concern for parents. It’s a term we all hear so often but what does it actually mean? It’s a form of bullying or harassment that is done through the use of technology.

Cyberbullying is more likely to occur with secondary students due to the access to technology and can have significant and long lasting impacts on a child’s emotional wellbeing. Australian research suggests that one in five students has experienced bullying online, that’s an alarming percentage.

The eSafety Commissioner has a number of suggestions to follow no matter what the age of your child. I’ve listed a few below;

  • Try to resist immediately taking away their device; removing your child’s phone or computer may be really unhelpful and cutting off their online access doesn’t help teach them about online safety or building resilience.
  • Stay calm and open – don’t panic; you want your child to feel confident that you are not going to be immediately upset or angry, they want to feel comfortable in talking with you. Try and talk to them without being judgemental and making them fear being punished.
  • Listen, think, pause; try and gauge the scale of the problem. For example, does it exist in a peer group or is more widespread? How serious is it? How badly do you think it is affecting your child, consider what level of support is needed.
  • Act to protect your child if necessary; if your child is being threatened or is making comments they want to harm themselves, consider getting professional help and calling 000 if their physical safety is at risk.
  • Empower your child; try and build your child’s confidence to help them to make better decisions themselves.
  • Collect evidence; before you or your child block someone or delete posts take screenshots and collect evidence including dates and times. This may be useful if the behaviour continues and you want to report it. If the material involves sexualised images be aware that possessing or sharing such images of people under 18 may also be a crime.
  • Manage contact with others; advise your child not to retaliate or respond to bullying messages, sometimes people say these things to get a response and it could make it worse. Help them block or unfriend the person and limit their contact with them. Check their privacy settings to restrict who can see their posts and pages etc.
  • Report; most sites and social media services have the option to report inappropriate content posted by others.

The internet is a big place, with a big memory and sometimes there are things posted that may be harmful or upsetting for your child. If you need help to get any such material removed from a social media service or platform the eSafety Commissioner can help. You can make a report to eSafety on your child’s behalf if they are under the age of 18 years.

On top of everything else that we need to teach our children, it’s important for us to try and help develop their digital intelligence. It’s important that we teach them how to navigate both the real world and the online world because the reality is that everything is moving more towards having an online presence and we all need to understand how that works.

Try and build your child’s confidence and understanding of what’s acceptable and not acceptable online. Remind them that words hurt and if it’s something they wouldn’t say to the person’s face or if it’s something they would be embarrassed saying in front of their parents or grandparents than don’t say it, don’t type it. Let’s teach our kids to be both resilient and kind.


About Christie Sinclair

Christie joined the Townsville Catholic Education Office as a Student Protection Officer at the start of Term 1. Christie has thirteen years of experience of working in child protection delivering front line services to vulnerable children, young people and families. Christie is a mother of four with a stepdaughter who is about to commence university and three younger children, two of which attend a Catholic school in our Diocese. Christie is very passionate about her role and strongly believes that child protection is everyone's responsibility.

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