Skip to main content

Talking to your child about cyber safety

26 May 2022 | Posted in Student Protection; Online Safety

Talking to your child about cyber safety

By Christie Sinclair

Talking to children,  no matter their age, about safety online is as important as talking to children about stranger danger.  The reality is that one in four children will experience something online that can make them unsafe.  There are many risks online and it is important that families are aware and have regular conversations with their children.  It can be difficult to know how to start the conversation.  

The eSafety Commissioner has some great suggestions to help parents start conversations with their children.  When you talk to your child about personal subjects, you are trying to balance a number of different things: 

  • respecting your child’s privacy while still making sure they are safe and happy 
  • giving them space to test their own problem-solving skills online but supporting them as they make their own way 
  • educating them about people’s different personalities but knowing you can’t make their choices for them 
  • establishing boundaries while being understanding and open

It’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:

  • 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 then don’t say it, don’t type it. Let’s teach our kids to be both resilient and kind.

More on this topic

Back to Articles