Written by: Jenny Smith
The balance of respecting your child‚Äôs privacy whilst keeping them safe
As your children start to access online material, the issue of online safety comes up. With the current technological age, young people have access to all sorts of information that can be both upsetting and dangerous and it is part of a parent’s duty to protect and support their children to stay safe.
Rules and boundaries
Supporting their safety alongside their independence can be a tricky edge. It involves having conversations, setting rules and agreeing boundaries about expected behaviours. The rules that you set will depend on their age and what you feel is appropriate, but areas to consider giving guidance on, include the amount of time that they can spend online, the time of day that they can go on, the websites that they can visit or the activities that they can take part in, sharing images and videos, behaving respectfully online in terms of not saying anything that you’d not say face to face.
If they play online games check the age rating of all games that they play before they go on, find out who they are playing with and what information they are giving to other players. Stick to a clear agreement about how much time they spend playing to avoid them developing an addiction to gaming.
Being aware of the content of websites is also important, especially in the areas of pornography or other inappropriate content. Some websites can be very suggestive around behaviours whereas others contain explicit images and language. Have your computer home page set to a website that is appropriate for your children and for younger children visit the website yourself first to check out the content and with older children agree a list of websites that they can visit and have a rule that they ask you if they can visit any others. Have another rule that they check with you before they register onto a new website such as Facebook or Twitter.
Parental controls are an online feature that allow you to have settings on your computer that control what your children can access and privacy settings that ensure that information stays private. These controls are not 100% effective so they should compliment rather than replace conversations. Controls can be set on all gadgets that access the Internet including phones, tablets and laptops but be aware that if your child goes away from home the same filters may not be in place. If this happens, agree with your child what they will use if they access WIFI or use computers in other peoples houses. For more information about setting up controls see http://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-and-resources/parents-and-carers/parental-controls
Talk to your kids!
We are in an age where children know more about online matters than most adults. Part of keeping your children safe involves having conversations whereby they tell you what they would do in certain situations. Ask them how they would advise their friends to stay safe and how they would go about using the safety features of a site that they use. When they are at the age of social networking sites you can have an agreement that they are allowed to register as long as there is a trusted adult as one of their online friends.
Once you’ve agreed the rules and boundaries it’s important to trust your children unless they give your reason to do otherwise. You can check in with them every so often about how they are managing but giving them space to be trusted is an essential part of letting them grow up. If you feel concerned for any reason be straightforward and let them know the reasons for your worries. For more general information on staying safe, using safety settings on individual sites such as facebook see http://www.nspcc.org.uk/help-and-advice/for-parents/online-safety/how-to-help/help-child-safe-online_wda99633.html