It’s Safer Internet Day tomorrow! We wanted to find out the best way to talk to kids about online safety, so we asked an expert. Kate Jones is the Deputy CEO of Childnet International, a non-profit organisation that works to make the internet a great and safe place for children.
Top 5 Tips on Staying Safe Online:
- Free to Talk
Talk regularly with your kids about how they use technology. Listening to your kids will give you the best idea on how to support them. Check out conversations starters here.
- Free to be Different
Acknowledge the different types of identities your kids may see online, and use these to spark discussions around diversity and inclusivity.
- Free to Make the Internet Work for Your Family
Knowing how to activate and use parental controls can help protect your kids from seeing inappropriate content online. Check out this guide to get advice on how to make use of parental controls.
- Free to Get Involved
Spend some time with your kids looking at, or interacting with, the things they do online. Talk about both the positives and negatives of being online, and empower your kids with safe choices they can choose, rather than overwhelming them with restrictions.
- Free to Seek Help and Support
Just as we tell young people to talk about what they are unsure of, make sure you do too! You don’t need to know all the answers straight away, but reassure your kids that you can figure it out together. You can also connect with other parents who are trying to make the internet work for their family too.
Here’s what Kate had to say about staying safe online:
What’s the best way to bring up internet safety with your kids?
Kate: “Sometimes parents don’t know where to start, but lots of young people want to connect and share that element of their life with parents. Just open up the conversation naturally.
Conversation-starters can stem from chatting about a family agreement, which can help parents ask questions and helps young people identify why they want to use the internet and for how long.
Parents also need to remember that whatever agreements you make, they need to be followed by both grown-ups and kids. So if you agree to put away phones at meal times, for example, that counts for everyone in the household.”
How long should an internet Family Agreement last?
Kate: “There’s a lot to be said for the power of a ‘new toy’. There may be a rapid change in behaviour and habits online if it’s a child’s first time on social media, for example, or if they get a new phone. This means that the family agreement may need updating every few months, as the kids make changes in their online activity.”
What if kids are secretive about what they do online?
Kate: “The important thing is to come from a starting point of trust and listening. Kids will stop sharing if they are worried the parent will take away the device. So it’s important to have a conversation, because often a young person is more scared of losing a device than dealing with what they are tackling in their online life.
Kids need to know that parents will listen if they come to them about something going wrong, rather than reacting with anger. Start with the positives! And have conversations regularly, so kids feel listened to. Be open to hearing how young people use the internet differently than their parents.”
How can parents ensure kids understand the true potential risks of going online, without making them too guarded or scared?
Kate: “It’s about making sure the conversation remains open. Listen to kids about what they are experiencing. Rather than saying ‘you can’t do this,’ open the question by asking ‘what do you think you need to be aware of? What do you think the consequences might be?’ Or ‘what do you think that person might have been trying to do when they asked for personal information beyond the game that was being played?’
Parents are life experts, even if they may not be online experts. Parents have a good sense of whether a particular interaction online might be inappropriate. It’s important to ask, listen, and reflect.”
What do you think the most positive outcome will be if more kids have better skills to be safe online?
Kate: “If young people feel that they are able to share their challenges and problems and things that are worrying them, then adults are in a position to be able to take an appropriate response to that. It would help with bullying and grooming, online sexual harassment – these issues would be more quickly handled if young people felt confident and comfortable and secure to seek help from adults. That support system would change things for the better. Even just to reassure, empathise and listen, then young people would feel so much better about being online, and they’d get so much more out of it.”
Azoomee offers a totally safe digital space for kids to explore, but we know that kids will be online in other arenas too. We hope we can all work together to create a safer internet for all.