How to Keep your Child Safe Online

Today is Safer Internet Day but how can we help our children to be safe online? Firstly, we need to identify what the risks are, then we need to educate our children to watch out for these risks and to know what to do to keep themselves safe online. Children find using the Internet, apps and technology much easier than most adults. Unlike many of us, they have never known a world without the Internet. They are growing up in a very different world. Therefore, educating your child about staying safe online and navigating technology safely is key.

 

What are the Risks and What Can you do to Protect your Children?

 

Knowing the risks makes it easier for you to help to put strategies in place to protect your children. It is important for children to know what the dangers are (at an appropriate age) so that they can recognise the risks and know how to avoid them.

 

Hacking/Unauthorised Access to your Technology

People can hack in to your server, devices and even toys and fitness equipment if they connect to the Internet. They do this to have access to your personal information including bank accounts. Some people may try to hack in to children’s devices or toys to talk to your child.

 

How can you keep your child safe online?

  • Make sure that you have difficult to guess passwords on your internet server, your devices, any toys or equipment that have access to the Internet, apps and bank accounts.
  • Ensure that anything you don’t want your child to be able to access has a different password to what they are allowed to access.
  • Ensure you check the settings of apps, toys and any equipment that connects to the Internet to ensure that the security settings are maximised. If you can password protect them then do so.
  • If your child is at an age where they answer the phone, make sure they know never to give your phone number, bank details or passwords to people. They should also never look at bank accounts online if someone calls to ask them to check their or your balance.

 

Access to Unrestricted Materials

The Internet is a wealth of information, however, there is plenty of material online which is not appropriate for your child to see. Innocent search engine requests can result in inappropriate findings as can searches in technology such as YouTube.

 

How can you keep your child safe online?

  • Setting parental controls on your Internet and individual devices will help to limit your child’s open access to inappropriate resources. Don’t forget to check app settings and toys which can access the Internet too and set the parental controls on them.
  • YouTube has a children’s version of the app which may be more suitable for your child and there is also a kids app for BBC iPlayer.
  • When completing learning at home you could research Internet sites and then give your children a list of  websites to look at to complete their learning. This is what I do for all research studies included in my curriculums. This ensures that you have checked the material before your child has access to it.
  • Since the Internet is always changing, you may find that your child still encounters inappropriate material so teach them what to do if they see or read something which makes them feel unsafe, unhappy or uncomfortable.
  • Teach your child how to report inappropriate materials and people. Sites such as YouTube and Facebook have reporting and blocking options. Check your child knows how to find and use them. The link below will take you to the Internet Watch Foundation where you can report inappropriate materials.

    https://report.iwf.org.uk/en/

  • You could also encourage your child to use child friendly search engines including Swiggle and Kids-search.
  • Ensure that you check online or with other parents for any reports of issues that may impact your child’s safety before you download apps or purchase toys or games that connect to the Internet. Recently there has been a lot of issues with an app called Roblox and children receiving in app messages from strangers. The app has been under investigation for some time and the police are aware of the problems and have issued a warning and yet the app is still currently available to download.

 

Cyber Bullying

Online bullying is sadly far too common. Cyber bullying commonly occurs through texting, What’s App, or social media sites. The nature of these systems means that group based bullying can occur too. Cyber bullying is easier to evidence than conventional bullying though as there is plenty of written evidence which can be screenshot and printed and taken to the other children’s parents or to the police.

 

How can you keep your child safe online?

  • Often children who are victims of cyber bullying will seem anxious or distressed when using their devices or agitated when a message comes through. They may also be secretive or reluctant to talk about messages.
  • Children may show a change in behaviour such as increased anxiety, a reluctance to join in activities they previously enjoyed, decreased appetite or trouble sleeping.
  • Encourage open and honest dialogue with your child to help them come to you if cyber bullying occurs.
  • It is important to educate your child as to what cyber bullying looks like so that they can recognise it quickly and it can be stopped quickly.
  • Many children end up being bystanders to bullying and don’t know what to do, so educating your child to talk openly to you about cyber bullying could benefit not just them but their friends too.

 

Sharing too much Information

Children are often very trusting and will share information about themselves with others, especially if they believe they are talking to another child. Social media platforms have ‘About Me’ sections, ‘Bios’ and ‘Profiles’ for children to fill in key information about themselves, however, this can then be accessed and used inappropriately by others. Many children don’t set their social media sites to the most private level because they don’t know how to or because they want to be able to contact new people. Some social media platforms are in fact designed to connect with new people. It is imperative that your child understands the dangers associated with this and takes them seriously so that they are able to protect themselves from grooming.

 

How can you keep your child safe online?

  • The first thing you can do is to agree with your child which social media sites they can access. You could choose to set up their account so that you have access to it too, or you could regularly use open communication with your child to look at posts together to see that they are using the site safely.
  • Please remember that some social media sites do have age restrictions. If you are not sure what they are it may be worth checking first. These are a minimum age guide, however, you will know if your child is ready to access the site and all that comes with it.
  • You could write your child’s profile/bio with them and discuss which information they should and shouldn’t share at the time and why. Profile information is often public for anyone to see.
  • Talk to your child about the risks of taking photos in key places, such as outside a sports club that they attend, outside your home, or whilst they are wearing any uniform they may have for clubs etc. This gives personal information about them to others too.
  • Talk to your children about the importance of only talking online to people they have met in real life and explain that people can lie over the Internet.

 

Grooming

Grooming is when a person builds an emotional connection with your child for the purpose of taking advantage of them through sexual exploitation, sexual abuse or even child trafficking. It can occur online or in real life. This is not limited to strangers – it could be a professional, someone that they train with, a family member or a friend. Grooming is often carefully planned and can take place over many weeks or months to allow the person to gain the trust of your child. Grooming can occur over the Internet through social media platforms, or through texting or What’s App. Sometimes the person will pretend to be someone they are not to enable them to gain the trust of your child.

 

How can you keep your child safe online?

  • If your child is aware of a potential danger they have the chance to recognise the behaviour. However, many people who are victims of grooming are not aware. Educating your child to look for the signs of grooming may help them to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Ensure that you encourage your child to not arrange to meet anyone without telling you first and that they should never meet new people alone or in an unfamiliar or isolated location.
  • Encourage your child to talk about their friends (including their online friends) with you. A groomer will try to encourage your child to be secretive and not tell people about the communication.
  • Groomers may give their victims gifts and presents or access to drugs and alcohol. If your child suddenly has access to new things then talk to them about where they came from.
  • Teach your child that people they speak to online may not be honest.
  • Teach your child that social media is for contacting people they know in real life.

 

Sexting

If you are not familiar with this term, it refers to children sending naked or semi naked photos or videos of themselves to someone else or sexually explicit messages. This could be someone they are (or would like to be) in a relationship with, but not always. It is illegal to create or share sexually explicit images of a child even if the child has created the image of themselves and the police can record it as a crime.

 

How can you keep your child safe online?

  • It is really important to inform your children that once they send or share these images they are no longer in control of them. The images are then in the public domain and are often shared with other people. Sometimes they could be shown to friends of the receiver. Alternatively, they may be shared with a larger number of people, or be used to have a level of emotional control over your child.
  • Educating your child is the best way to avoid this as if they don’t share personal images then they do not have to worry. However, it is also important to explain to your child that if they do share personal images then it is best to tell you so that you can help them to deal with anything that happens next.
  • Ensure that your child knows that creating and sharing images of themselves or other children is illegal.

 

Ensure that you find ways to talk with your children about keeping themselves safe online as in today’s world technology and the Internet is a part of life for most of us. Internet safety is an area which is constantly changing and updating so regular research and conversations with your child are key.

 

Do you have any further tips? Email me at contact@theteachingcompass.co.uk or visit my Facebook page and share your tips with my readers.

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By | 2018-02-05T10:26:20+00:00 February 5th, 2018|Home Education Resources|0 Comments

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