It’s imperative to teach your kids how to safely browse online from a young age. The internet is an extremely powerful vehicle for change, however it can also be used adversely. In this article we’ll explore some things that you should help your child understand and show them how to use the internet safely.
In 2018 Roy Morgan research showed “94 per cent of Australians between the ages of 14 and 17 have a smartphone”, which is concerning because teenagers and older children are typically prone to oversharing their lives on social media. With the proliferation of technology being integrated into appliances, teaching, news and the way we interact with things on a day-to-day basis, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to manage, and more importantly monitor, children and teenagers who use social media. According to ABS, “For households with children aged under 15 years, 97% had access to the internet”. These statistics are huge as we are seeing an increase in mental health issues, cyberbullying and self-esteem issues that all stem from social media.
It’s imperative to teach your kids how to safely browse online from a young age. The internet is an extremely powerful vehicle for change, knowledge and accessibility to people across the world however it can also be used adversely. In this article we’ll explore some things that you should help your child understand and show them how to use the internet safely.
Teaching Your Kids To Use Social Media Safely
As for teaching them about the dangers of social media, make sure you are open to talking about all aspects. Educating yourself about how each platform your child is using works and the dangers of each as well. This provides you with the tools to answer questions they may have. An additional solution you should consider is having another adult (not their parent) that the child is close to (teacher, Aunt, Uncle, family friend) that is a good source of advice to provide answers or support if they do not feel comfortable coming to you.
- Follow or become friends on social media with people you only know in real life
- Don’t put anything super personal on the internet, and keep your privacy settings on the highest level
- Create a password that is extremely difficult. Typically hard passwords include a capital letter and a special character.
- If you ever get a message that makes you feel threatened or suggests something harmful, show an adult that you trust
- Don’t accept location following apps or share your location online. Some apps require access to your location via location services so try and disable this or switch it off when you aren’t using the app.
- Don’t post photos, comments or posts that could be detrimental for your future or you wouldn’t want your family to see
Setting guidelines or boundaries
Another more hard measure could be to create physical spaces in which your children are limited to using their devices. Such as – for 1 hour in the afternoon in the lounge room they are allowed to use their devices. Furthermore, having a place where the devices are kept during the night and during important times (homework, dinner, family time etc). Can prevent secrecy and incorrect usage of their devices. You could let them continue playing on devices if they agree to use educational games like the ones we’ve mentioned here.
There are also many apps for parents of younger children that you can install that allow you to monitor their usage. This is a fine line to walk as the age of your child can depend on how much privacy you should give them vs. their maturity to make smart decisions about their online actions. Some social media monitoring apps for parents: all of which perform similar tasks – can include tracking your child’s location, preventing certain content from reaching their devices, limit in app usage, provides activity summaries of usage. Have a look at some of these services:
- SecureTeenAndroid Parental Control
For older children where these stricter measures may not be relevant, having them as ‘friends’ on their social media can be a good way of monitoring the content they are sharing with others as well as “snooping can alienate them and damage the trust you’ve built together.”
With the introduction of the internet into childrens’ lives, security and exposure become worrying factors. The ABS also reported that “In 2016-17, 14% of connected households with children aged 5-14 stated a child had been exposed to inappropriate material and 5% of these households stated a child aged 5-14 had been subject to cyberbullying.”
Cyberbullying can have some devastating effects on children, teenagers and adults too. You should try and share with them some helplines or resources that can help them if the situation ever arises or should you sense that your child is being targeted online, there are ways you can help them overcome the cyberbullying. Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 and Parentline 1300 30 1300 are the most helpful resources for this.
Practice what you preach for their sake
It is often that parents post to their own social media accounts without a second thought. From birth announcements with the child’s full name and DOB to pictures of them in their school uniforms, at their sporting clubs. Although the intent is completely innocent in the fact that you are just proud parents showing off your child’s achievements… is that all it is?
Social media and cyber security expert, April C. Wright says that parents are posting photos, not realising the immense amount of information they are publishing on global platforms such as instagram and Facebook… “anything that is posted online is permanently stored somewhere.” It’s all well and good to teach our kids about online privacy but if we aren’t doing it ourselves then we aren’t leading by example.
Firstly check your own privacy settings, on your accounts. Who can see your posts? On Facebook there are settings that give you the option to choose ‘only you’ ‘your friends’, ‘friends of friends’ and ‘public’ to see your posts. Who are you allowing to follow you? Go through your follow/ friend list and make sure you know and trust everyone on there… maybe it is time for a clean out? Have you changed your password recently and updated your security information? Facebook also has a system that when you tag someone in your post it is revealed on their page also, this means everyone in their friendship group also sees the post – the circle continues to get bigger and bigger.
Instagram is a little more simple with the option for a private or public account. In addition to this you can custom select who of your followers sees your posts and stories also. In addition, checking that your Instagram is not connected with your Facebook as content can often be published to both.
- Create a private folder on Facebook with access to only trusted family and friends to keep them up to date. This allows you to show the people that matter the achievements and memories of you and your child without everyone else watching from the sideline.
- Avoid having your children in your profile photo. This is important as, even when your privacy settings seem to be invincible – your profile picture is always on display regardless.
- Stop updating your pages with your location. The idea of ‘checking in’ is not only a no-no for your childrens’ safety and their whereabouts but also for your own safety as predators can either locate you or use the knowledge to access your home and contents when you are out.
- Up your privacy settings, this includes selecting who you befriend wisely.
Just remember not to focus only on the negatives but also think about the positives when it comes to social media. It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to social media and online activity. Be sure to make your kids aware of the dangers online but also ensure they know how great of a tool it can be. The internet can:
- Keep them connected with friends and family
- Provide a platform for them to get involved or become a part of groups like charities, volunteer groups, and non for profits.
- Help share and access artists, communities, music, events, sports etc. that they may realise they are interested in. and allows them to meet people with similar interests.
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