Kids use technology from an ever-increasing young age, most will be using devices by the age of 4 and will have their lives documented in pictures from birth. never before has there been such a need for parents to keep kids safe.
Keeping your family safe online is an ever-increasing worry and battle for parents as technology updates quicker than a parent can keep up-to-date. As a grandmother, I know how much I worry about my grandchildren and my adult children. But how can you police your children’s every move online, give them the freedom to keep up with friends and family and still keep them safe?
Advise and Tips for Parents
- Start the conversation now and early in your child’s life – make it age appropriate. Don’t wait until there is a problem: The important thing is that it becomes a normal part of life to be talking with your children about what they are doing online, i.e. what is fun, what can go wrong and how they would cope with it. Keep this as part of your “let’s talk about everyday stuff that happens in real life”. Know what apps they like and who their friends are. Younger children (before teens) usually only talk online with other children they know in real life. Other children and Teens are more likely to meet other teens online from anywhere in the world. Just keep yourself informed and talk online safety with them.
- Let them know you’re there for them all the time so they can talk when they need to later on. Talk to them about what is okay and not okay to do online.
- Encourage them to look after their friends.
- Get them to show you how to do something online. Kids love being smarter than grown-ups.
- If you do decide to allow your child to use a particular app or game, then make sure that you get involved. You could agree that you download and set it up together, making the most of any privacy settings etc. N.B Aways Research the app, device or game first. Most have settings that allow you to restrict access and advise on safety
- Always agree to basic ground rules, e.g. not accepting friend requests from strangers and always keep an eye on what they are doing and saying online.
- Make it clear they can always come to you if anything makes them upset or worried.
- Make a household policy: as to what age phones will be bought for your child and at what age they can access certain apps. Model good behaviour and explain why you won’t be accepting a friend request etc. Children should always be supervised while using devices or as a teen should have no problem allowing you to check or ask questions about who they are in contact with online. Always be consistent with your home rules.
- Don’t have your phones and tablets at the dinner table or after a certain time. Allow each other face to face time at dinner to catch up on everyone’s day. Make one night a week a family night or afternoon.
- Talk to the parents of your children’s friends. Let them know what your rules are about online safety in your home, ask what they are doing in their homes, talk about games and apps with them. If every one of you is singing from the same hymn sheet ( and you know it) then the kids can’t coerce you into something.
- Keep access codes to your modem at all times. You put it on devices, not them.
- Don’t be afraid to confiscate devices if need be.
- No clearing histories
- No private passwords to apps, games or devices.
- Regularly review all of their online activities and search their histories. Don’t overreact if something comes up but talk with them about it nor at them.
- Same rules for online as offline.
- No phones or online stuff before homework is finished – except teens who may use tablets for homework now in some schools.
- Remember The internet never forgets! Don’t freak them out but do warn them it could follow them for life.
- Something to be aware of: Watch out for several accounts. Yes, kids are going to be much more tech-savvy than most parents these days, so please watch fo “extra” accounts setup, regular checking their online activity and seeing histories cleared should keep you in the know as to what is going on.
- Lastly get a tech-savvy friend or an expert and follow them online to keep up to date on whats happening. One particular expert I can recommend is Wayne Denner His website link and Facebook group for parents link
If your child is a big tech or gamer enthusiast then maybe Coderdojo will be a good place for them to join and they will learn a lot about safety too. There are a lot of these groups being setup around the country at present, this is the link for the Wexford group on twitter.
Here is a link to some conversation starters on staying safe online. Cyber-safe online Ireland
They also have some great links for different device controls for parents just click on the icons on each item on this page Parental controls
So what are parental controls?
Parental controls are software/ tools which you can install on phones/tablets/games consoles/ laptops/ your home broadband. You can also use them to help you block/filter the content your child sees when searching online. And on family friendly public WiFi can help when you’re out and about.
They can also be helpful for you to:
- plan what time of day your child can go online and how long for.
- stop them from downloading apps they’re too young for.
- manage the content different members of the family can see.
Make parental controls part of your household agreement especially with older kids/teens, explain them to your children so they know what they do and WHY they are there. There is nothing better than an adult telling a child they can’t do something and not explain why. It’s just an open invitation for them to break the rules. remember start the conversation early and make sure you remind them often, that way they know it’s important to stay safe online no matter how old you get.
If you need help we offer support for parents with 1 to 1 counselling in our Wexford Town and Ferns offices.
Please conact 089 4373641 for an appointment