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Child Safety Online: Useful Tips

10/02/2019

The internet has become an integral part of most people’s lives, including children and young people. From toddlers to teenagers, there's a growing wealth of apps and websites being marketed at younger age groups, encouraging engagement with technology from increasingly younger ages. There is a wealth of useful information out there to help support parents and guardians to create boundaries for the safe use of technology and this month we're highlighting a few useful tips.

Firstly, setting up your broadband connection with Parental Controls is a great initial step to keep children safe online. Depending on your Internet Service Provider (ISP), you should typically be provided with a 'Safe Search' tool that can help to filter inappropriate content, which websites can and can’t be visited, time restrictions for being online and more. Some ISP's also provide extra features such as 'Homework Time', which blocks the use of social media and gaming websites during time parameters. You can find out more information on how to apply these controls to your own home broadband and online devices here.

Secondly, encouraging family conversations about the internet in your household can help to identify how your children are using it and can also help to raise their awareness of good practice and potential dangers. Talking openly and freely about the internet and becoming involved in what your child is doing will hopefully encourage them to tell you if something has upset them or made them feel uncomfortable. Additionally, ensuring your children use the internet in a busy area of the home, such as a living room or kitchen, will mean you can keep an eye on what they are doing and ask questions if necessary; however, it’s still important to set boundaries in terms of which apps and websites you feel are appropriate for them to visit and to agree to these rules with them.

If your child is using social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, it’s important to discuss how they use these platforms and check the privacy and safety settings within them. It's also worth asking if their social media posts are visible only to their friends or to the whole world, and to make sure you and your child know how to report and block users/content when necessary.

Children should also be made aware that there can be damaging short and long-term consequences to what they publish online. Public figures are now regularly appearing in the news for making contraversial or offensive social media posts, even though often these posts have been made many years before. Future employers may look through the social media profile of your child as part of the screening process and might be put off if they see something offensive or unfavorable being shared.

One of the most important things for you and your children to remember is that you can never guarantee people are who they say they are online. It's always wise to be cautious and to refrain from giving out personal details or photos for this reason. Once information or images are sent, there is no way to control what happens to them. Even if your child believes they are speaking to an online friend or someone they know personally from school, they should always remember they cannot control what is done with their data once it has been sent. A useful phrase to help your children make good decisions about what they share is to continually get them to ask themselves “Would you be happy to send this to your grandparents?”. If the answer is "no", then there’s a good chance they probably shouldn’t send it at all!

If you would like more information about staying safe online, here are a few useful resources:

By setting clear boundaries and keeping an open conversation flowing about their internet usage, we can look out for children and young people - helping them to stay as safe as possible whilst still making the most of what the internet has to offer!

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