Most parents and carers are very aware that the online world can be a dangerous place for children. It is where many children are groomed for sexual or criminal exploitation. The prevalence of mobile phones blurs the lines of ownership and responsibility and makes it harder for parents to feel like they can protect their children.
There is undoubtedly a lot that parents can do to minimise the risks. However, we also need to come to terms with the hard truth that we will never be able to fully control our children’s exposure to the online world. It is a constantly evolving world where for every parental control, there is a Youtube video teaching tenacious young people exactly how to get around it. For every App we become familiar with, our children are trying three new ones we’ve never heard off.
What we can do:
- Know how your child’s phone works (e.g. Bluetooth, Internet access)
- Agree the type of content that you would be happy for them to download, knowingly receive or send on to others.
- Save any abusive messages/inappropriate images for evidence purposes.
- Use Parental controls (e.g. age limits/in-app purchases)
- Set time limits.
- Agree on rules for use in communal spaces.
- Agree and impose consistent rules/boundaries.
- Decide together what are acceptable bills.
- Encourage balanced use – i.e. off at mealtimes, bedtime
- Discuss/look at privacy settings together.
- Use apps to moderate content/usage.
Most of all, keep the dialogue open about what they are doing online, and how those interactions are making them feel.
We can’t control everything, but we can be mindful around the five themes of online safety.
Overuse – Are we using technology too much?
Conduct – How you behave online
Content – What you view, share (upload) and download
Contact – Who do you interact with?
Commercial – POP-UPS, scams and more
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