Kids today have more access to information than previous generations could ever dream of. However with this access comes certain risks and the importance of developing good, online safety habits continues to grow. For parents, online safety can be a daunting task fraught with many decisions and questions. When should I let my child join a social media site? How can I keep their accounts private? How much screen time is too much screen time?
Practical Online Safety Tips for Parents
To help parents, we’ve put together some practical tips to instil an online safety mindset from the get go.
1. Talk about it
Have an open conversation with your child about their online behaviour and use it to understand their online world. Through this conversation, set expectations together with your child, about the behaviours you’d like them to adopt online. What you talk about will depend on the age of your child, but some suggested topics to discuss are:
- How long should they spend online
- What apps do they use and which websites do they visit
- Who do they talk to online
- How do they use the Internet to communicate with friends and family
- Are they on any social media sites
- What information do they share online
2. Draw up an agreement
Once you have established clear expectations of online behaviour, consider drawing up a family agreement. This is a fun way to ensure that everyone in the family abides by the newly-created rules. Write it together with the entire family and make sure everyone signs it. Remember, you’ll need to abide by these rules too. We have a template you can download for free here.
3. Try out the tech they’re using
This can seem daunting, but it’s a great way to understand the technology your child uses on a daily basis, as well as the apps and websites they spend time on. You could even ask your child to show you how the app or device works as a way to start the online safety conversation. Another way to understand their online world is to read the terms and conditions of the services they’re using. While they might be too young to understand, you can see exactly how their data is being used and stored.
4. Be a good role model
How often do you use your mobile device at dinner? How many angry rants have you shared online? It’s important to look at the example you’re setting for your children. It’s also worthwhile examining your own privacy settings, or seeing exactly what personal data or information is stored by online services you use.
5. The online safety basics
Teach your children the online safety basics about personal information, sharing content and keeping their passwords private.
- Setting strong passwords: Teach them about the importance of setting strong passwords. This will help protect their information and prevent their account from being hacked. A lot of sites and social media services will now prevent users from joining if their password is considered too weak.
- Protecting personal information: It’s never a good idea to share their bank account details, home address, phone numbers or personal information online. It’s especially important to keep personal details that could be used to answer security questions to gain access to their accounts, private. E.g What street they grew up one, or the name of their first pet.
- Their school: It is not a good idea for them to share information about which school they attend.
- Their location: Teach them how to disable their location. Some apps share live location data, or post location data alongside updates. Some smartphones allow users to share their location in real-time and it is important to teach them what this means. They should never share their location with someone who is unknown to them.
- Don’t believe everything you see: While it might seem obvious to adults, children don’t realise that people aren’t always who they say they are online. Talk to your kids about speaking to people they don’t know online and teach them common sense when it comes to strangers online.
- Meeting up with online friends: Help your kids understand the dangers of meeting up with strangers in the real world. Encourage them to never meet up with a stranger or online friend without speaking to you first.
- Digital footprint: Teach your child to really think about what they post online as it will last forever in the form of a digital footprint. While they seem unimportant now, posts shared online could impact future college applications, as well as career prospects. Encourage them to think twice about sharing things in public, online spaces.
6. Their first phone
Before giving them their first mobile device, make sure you understand how to use it. As a parent you can choose to trust that your child will abide by the family agreement and avoid apps and sites that aren’t age-appropriate. Keep in mind that sometimes they will encounter offensive or harmful content without going looking for it. E.g Through disguised links, spam emails or search engine results. If you have concerns, you can use mobile device management (MDM) software like Mobile Guardian to block inappropriate apps and websites. Parental control software is a good idea for younger children who are using an internet-enabled device for the very first time.
7. Their social media accounts
The minimum age for popular social media websites including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Youtube is 13. Some parents choose to set their kids up on social media and manage their account for them, until they come of age. This helps them teach their children good online safety habits.
Tips for setting up their social media accounts
- Help them set up their own account
- Use your email address to set up their account you have concerns
- Use their actual birth date so they will be protected from inappropriate content
- Teach them about their account settings, privacy settings and safety settings if appropriate
- Set up your own account and friend, or follow them
- Run through the safety basics one more time
- Install an MDM like Mobile Guardian for extra peace of mind
8. Online bullying
Sadly, online bullying has become a problem, with 33% of kids age 12-20 in the UK experiencing cyber bullying. If you’d like some extra reading, take a look at the results on the Annual Bullying Survey. Again the first step here is to talk about online bullying with your child. Encourage them to talk about their online experiences with you and always be kind online.
We hope this list of online safety tips helped you make the Internet a safer place for your child. If you’d like to keep on reading, there are tons of eSafety resources available.
We’ve listed some good ones below: