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The Internet is a wonderful tool that has transformed the way we communicate, learn and entertain ourselves. Our children have grown up with it and can never imagine a world without it.
Like most tools, however, it can have sharp edges and, just as we teach our children to use scissors and other sharp objects carefully, we also need to teach them about the dangers that lurk within the internet, so that they are safe.
One problem is keeping up to date with the latest trends on social media, being aware of the techniques used online to get personal information, or even understanding the appeal of games like Fortnite.
In school, we work on teaching the children about how to keep their personal information private, to know that anyone they ‘meet’ online is a stranger and they should be very wary of anything these people say, as well as knowing how to spot if a website is safe and/ or reliable and how to behave with good ‘netiquette’.
However, the most important thing we want our children to learn is that nothing that they do online should be secret and, if they are concerned about anything online, they should talk to their parents or another trusted adult about it.
Here are some useful ideas from https://www.internetmatters.org/ that may be useful for parents. I recommend this site if you are looking for information on all sorts of internet related subjects, such as how to install parental controls or finding out more about the apps children use.
How can I protect my children?
Be clear what your child can and can’t do online – where they can use the internet, how much time they can spend online, the sites they can visit and the type of information they can share. Agree with your child when they can have a mobile phone or tablet.
The best way to find out what your child is doing online is to ask them to tell you about what they do and what sites they like to visit. If they’re happy to, ask them to show you. Talk to them about being a good friend online.
Put yourself in control
Install parental controls on your home broadband and any internet-enabled devices. Set up a user account for your child on the main device they use and make sure other accounts in the household are password-protected so that younger children can’t access them by accident.
Use airplane mode
Use airplane mode on your devices when your child is using them so they can’t make any unapproved purchases or interact with anyone online without your knowledge.
Encourage them to use their tech devices in a communal area like the lounge or kitchen so you can keep an eye on how they’re using the internet and also share in their enjoyment.
Talk to siblings
It’s also a good idea to talk to any older children about what they’re doing online and what they show to younger children. Encourage them to be responsible and help keep their younger siblings safe.
Use safe search engines such as Swiggle or Kids-search. You can save time by adding these to your ‘Favourites’. Safe search settings can also be activated on Google and other search engines, as well as YouTube.
Check if it’s suitable
The age ratings that come with games, apps, films and social networks are a good guide to whether they’re suitable for your child. For example, the minimum age limit is 13 for several social networking sites, including Facebook and Instagram. Although sites aimed at under-10s like Moshi Monsters and Kudos also have social networking elements.