"Encouraging children to keep their personal information private
is one of the biggest challenges we face."
It can be hard for parents to keep up with new technologies, and just thinking about keeping kids safe online can seem daunting.
The main dangers children and their parents need to be aware of are: cyber bullying, grooming by sexual predators and the problems of posting personal or embarrassing information online.
It's important to remember that the internet is a fun and valuable place for children to play and learn, and the vast majority of the time using the internet is a fantastic experience for millions of children.
However, as with many things in life, there can be hidden dangers. On the internet people can be instantly connected and you cannot always be sure you are talking to the person you think you are.
It's also worth remembering, once something is posted on the internet it's almost impossible to remove and so personal or embarrassing material can be seen by anyone, anywhere.
We shouldn't be overwhelmed by the negatives, remember the internet is a great resource for children. It's important that we give them space to explore the internet, so they can learn to keep themselves safe.
So what can you do?
10 Tips for Keeping your Children Safe Online
- Talk regularly with your child about what they do online and who they talk to online. A one-off birds and bees style lecture is not enough. You need to make internet safety a comfortable topic to talk about.
- Help your children to understand that they should never give out personal information online, particularly to friends that they do not know offline.
- Explain to your children what personal information means: email address, address, mobile or phone number, school name, clubs and societies, where their parents are, making arrangements for meeting up and any pictures or videos of themselves, their family or friends, etc. Small pieces of information can easily be pieced together to give a picture of themselves and their activities.
- Help your child to understand that some people lie online and that therefore it's better to keep online mates online. They should never meet up with any strangers without an adult they trust.
- Make them understand that once information or photos are posted online it’s impossible to take them back, anyone can see them and anyone can share them.
- Put computers in public parts of your house, and particularly don’t allow computers to be used hidden away in bedrooms. It’s important to give children access to computers, but it’s also important to make sure you can see what they are doing.
- If your child, or you, receives spam or junk email and texts, make sure they know that their contents should not be believed, that you should never reply or forward them and attached files shouldn’t be opened. It’s impossible to know what they contain, it could be a virus or an inappropriate image or video.
- Make sure your children choose their screen name, email address & chat handle wisely - don't use ones that reveal age, sex, etc and it’s important that they know the danger of using suggestive or sexy names. Predators are more likely to pursue a child with the screen name "sexyteen" or "niceboy1" than “jellyfish” or “jkjones”.
- Make sure your children know that it's never too late to tell someone if something makes them feel uncomfortable, and make sure they know who to go to (and be aware that at first it may not be you).
- Use technology to help you protect your child. Monitoring software can alert you to let you know your child might be getting into trouble. Make sure they know you don’t see everything, only snippets of potentially dangerous conversations. Use these to step in if needed and also to help you talk to your child about the dangers of what they are doing.
Finally, remember children learn by exploring and that the world they live in includes the internet. You can help by making sure they learn in safety, by being there for them when they need you and by pointing them in the right direction if and when they need your guidance.