When living overseas, we use the internet to keep in touch with friends and family. If your children are using the internet, here are some vital tips about online safety for kids.
How to keep our children safe when they’re online
Adults tend to underestimate the risks their children face online. As adults, we use the web mostly for emails, web research and social networks, whereas young people use it for games, music, interactive chat, etc. There is a big gap between children’s real experience online and adult awareness of these experiences.
In many schools, children are taught about e-safety, as they often use computers, tablets etc. at school too. But how can we guarantee the same protection to our children at home?
1) Get involved
First of all, parents need to get involved. They need to consider the online world like a playground that needs to be assessed. It’s not about spying on our children, but about to get to know their world online, their territory and to find out what they’re enjoying and why. Young people are very attracted by networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Piczo etc.). Initially they will use the Social Network Space used by their peers, but as they get older, their tastes begin to develop and some will migrate to another provider. If your child uses one of them, the best way to understand why and how, is to have a go yourself! Only if you know how a social networking site works will you be able to give your child the right advice and help if necessary.
2) Limited access
There is always the option to limit our children’s access to age appropriate sites. Especially when they’re younger, this is highly recommended (tips about restricting internet access can be found on the web, depending on the computer, browser etc.). Please find more internet safety tips for children here.
3) Stay close
It’s important to stay somewhere in the room with your children while they’re online and to check regularly about the sites they visit. Especially when they’re younger. But also when they’re already familiar with the online world it’s good to check on them from time to time and to keep being informed about what they’re experiencing online.
4) Set limits
As for so many other things, children need boundaries. While it’s relatively simple to set limits with younger children, you might consider signing a family contract for online safety with older ones.
5) Our children need to be critical
When our children dive into their virtual worlds and use social networks, they learn about social influencing. They are not aware that what they do in their online world is as real as what they do in the real world. They need to be taught to be critical. Encourage them to be alert, not to talk overtly about themselves to someone they don’t know in the real world, not to follow the crowd online (or offline) and to think critically about what they and others say and do.
6) About personal information online
Teach your child about how to use social networks. Children need to be taught about the risks by revealing personal information online. Tell them to never give their name, phone number, e-mail address, password, postal address, school or set any picture of them or other family members (and friends!) online without your permission. If they have email accounts: tell them not to open e-mails from people they don’t know and not to respond to hurtful or disturbing messages. And surely, remind them never to get together with anyone they “meet” online…
7) Don’t be judgmental
If our children think that we’re always judging what they do and the way they do it, they will be prone to hide things from us. They need to know that whatever happens to them online (and offline), they’ll always be welcome to talk to us and that we’ll be there helping them, no matter what. You probably don’t want to invade their privacy when they’re on Facebook etc and “children have a right to privacy and their own space, (…) they have a right and a vital need to use the internet. But (…) they don’t have a right to privacy on the internet”. [Source - 'The internet can be a dark and dangerous place’: The Telegraph]
Some time ago, in our school, parents were invited to assist an information morning about e-safety and I find that this film gives a great insight and is worth to be shared with children from the age of 8 upwards:
Guest post by Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold