How to ensure your kids are safe online
Kids consume hours of online content every day and they use digital platforms as their main method of communication on a regular basis. They’ve shifted from a real-life, face-to-face community into a larger digital arena. However, are they really prepared for this? Do they understand the potential risks as well as the need for immediate gratification? And do they know how to use these platforms in a safe manner and deal with threats online?
Every year, on February 9th, Safer Internet Day sheds light on all these topics and more. The ultimate goal of this annual event is to raise awareness of these issues and how we can make the internet a safer place for our children. So, what can we do to help educate our kids on internet safety and protect them from its dangers?
Understanding the threats online and educating kids on what these are in an age-appropriate way is fundamental here. A few common online dangers include cyberbullying, harassment, invasion of privacy and sexting. We will be focusing on cyberbullying as an example in this blog article, but the approach for tackling all of these threats is quite similar.
Cyberbullying: is bullying that happens online through social media, gaming or instant messaging platforms. The internet and social media have changed the way kids pick on each other. Being a victim of this can feel incredibly stressful, isolating, and larger in scale than it would in the real world. The best way to tackle these kinds of issues is by teaching kids how to prevent it from happening, how to respond to it if it happens to them, and how not to become a bully themselves.
- Sit with your kids online and teach them appropriate behavior. Kids model everything from their parents, especially younger ones and if they see how you behave, they will often follow a similar path.
- Teach your kids not to respond to threats or get involved with them. Just report them to an adult. It's important that kids respect themselves and others by not engaging with this behavior. Keep the communication flow between you and them free and safe so they come to you if they experience it.
- Keep the computer in a shared part of your home, where you can keep an eye on how content is being consumed.
- Keep track of how much time is being spent on smartphones, tablets, or even have a specified time slot for them to be used.
- Bookmark your kids' favorite sites so they go directly to those pages to prevent them from getting distracted while searching.
- Get your kids thinking about the information they share online. Ask them who they want to be online. Talk to them about how the comments, photos, videos and content in general they share online creates a picture of who they are.
- Educate your kids on the risks of sharing too much information online. Teach them not to share personal information such as their postal address.
- Teach them not to chat to strangers.
As well as educating your kids on the risks and precautions, it's also important for you to be able to spot the signs if your kids are being bullied online in order to take action as soon as possible. Here are a few key signs to look out for:
- They appear distressed when they get emails, texts and other digital alerts.
- They withdraw from friends and family.
- They no longer use the internet or check their phone.
- They try to avoid going to school or other social events.
- They lose their appetite and have trouble sleeping.
- Their school grades drop.
There are parental controls, apps and tracking software to protect your kids, which are always good to put in place as precaution, but the most impactful way to keep your kids safe in the long-term is to talk with them about the risks online, how to avoid them and how they can always come to you if anything does go wrong.
Every year Logiscool takes part on Safer Internet Day and we provide free interactive presentations on the topics to schools. If you’re interested in this service please go to https://www.logiscool.com/za , search for the closest Logiscool in your area and request the presentation from them.