The internet is an incredible resource, and has endless possibilities for children to learn, play, and connect all from the comfort of the home. Most of us have some connection to the internet in our home, be it a computer, laptop, ipad or our mobile phones.
It’s important to help your children understand how to use the internet with respect, and also with an awareness of safety issues. We spoke to the team behind Easy Parenting magazine and eumom.ie about why it’s important to promote internet safety with our children, and how to approach it.
Why is it important that I talk to my child about internet safety?
- 24% of the secondary school children surveyed said that they didn't use privacy settings on their social media accounts
- 36% of the primary school children didn't know how to make their social media accounts private
- 17% of the secondary school students and 13% of the primary school children said they had given their full name to someone online that they’d never met in real life
- 10% of the older group admitted to having shared personal details including email addresses, phone numbers or photos online
- 16%, or over 2,000 of the older group stated that they had met up with someone they met online
- 26% of the secondary school students said they or someone they knew had been bullied online. However, less than 10% of them had told anyone about the bullying
What can I do to protect my child from these internet safety issues?
Utilise Parental Controls
As well as specific security packages and apps, many internet providers offer reliable, and free parental controls to protect your home computers, laptops and ipads. These limit childrens’ access to websites and communication features (such as email and chat) according to age and content on the sites. It’s also worth creating parental restrictions on your home search engine. This can be located in all search engine settings and can help to ensure that inappropriate sites and images do not appear if a search is made.
Just as important as putting safety measures in place, is to communicate why it’s necessary. Just as you teach children about ‘stranger danger’ and road safety, so they can stay safe outside the home, you can also discuss how to deal with cyberbullying, distressing images and content, and contact with strangers online.
It’s also important that they know not to give out personal information online or on their social media, such as phone numbers, or what school they go to. Boundaries will be much easier for them to respect when they understand why they exist, especially if they are slightly older children and don’t want to feel babied!
Turn off geolocation settings for photos and apps
You may need location settings enabled for ‘find my phone’ and maps, but it is safer if your children do not publish their location in photos and on social media. Tell them to make sure their location is not turned on for apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
With smaller children in particular, using the internet together at home can promote the positive sites on offer, and ensure that your little one has a smooth experience. By the time they’re a little bit older you won't need to be glued to their side, but it’s still worth checking in frequently. This is much easier if you encourage computer use downstairs in family areas rather than behind closed doors or in bedrooms.
Negotiate rules around Internet usage
Create, and agree on rules around how much time can be spent using the internet at home, specific offline times like mealtimes and before bed, and what types of sites are okay to use.
Set an example
It is much more likely that your kids will respect the rules if they see you doing the same. You often hear children complain of their parents’ phone addictions, so try not have yours stuck in your hand constantly! This is also a good time to emphasise ‘permission’: Let them know what pictures you’re sharing of them and when, and take down any that they consider embarrassing or don’t like; this teaches them to give others the same respect.
If your child tells you about an upsetting experience online, don’t get angry; help them figure out how to avoid similar issues in the future. Many children won't talk to their parents when something goes wrong online in case they get into trouble.
But even if they have done something you don’t agree with, banning devices and internet use might just drive secret online activity outside the home, and make them less likely to come to you in the future. Talk about what to do when things go wrong or take a bad turn online, and make it clear that no matter what, you are there for them, free of judgement.
Explain the risk of meeting someone they’ve met online
Rather than simply banning your children from meeting any friends they make online, give them the option of doing so only if an adult is present.
Discover online advice
There are some great tools for learning about internet safety for parents and children on websites like ispcc.ie and webwise.ie, including advice about dealing with cyberbullying. Read the ISPCC’s 'Safe Click Code' together and keep a copy near the home computer, laptop or ipad.
If you’re interested in learning some tips on keeping your data safe online, you can read our adults guide, here.
Now that you know the steps to keep your family safe online, make sure you’ve covered in the real world too, with Aviva home insurance.