Summer Online Safety Tips
Exploring the digital world together
Many parents worry about how to amuse their children during the school holidays. Particularly with older children and young teenagers, the temptation to allow them to play on computers or watch endless hours of YouTube can be a little overwhelming. Technology can be a great tool, but as with everything, moderation is key. The most important thing to remember is that it is your job as a parent/carer to ensure your child is safe online. Are they playing age appropriate games? If they are online, who are they talking to? Technology can also be used for many different things – not just games and chats. There are health and fitness apps available that you could use as a family, spending time together outside and active! Some of you may also have Fitbits or other fitness measuring devices, why not set a family challenge?
Balancing screen time with other activities
Children are spending so much more time online, accessing so many different things in ways that we could not possibly have imagined when we were children ourselves. A sensible balance of ‘screen time’ and other activities is very important but this will vary from family to family and from child to child according to their individual needs, interests and family circumstances. Recent research has shown that the quantity of screen time is not the main concern parents should have, but about the quality of how that time is spent. Rather than just imposing a set time limit on how long children are online, we should be talking to our children, taking an interest in and understanding what they ae doing online and sharing some of the activities with them.
There are millions of apps that cover just about anything and everything you can imagine. The vast majority of apps are “free” to download, which is one of the reasons they are so instantly appealing to children. But sometimes “free” does not mean that there are no hidden costs. You often won’t pay at the point where you download the game, but what your child might quickly discover is that in order to do anything really interesting or exciting with it, they have to buy something. Some of these purchases may be charged straight to mobile contract bills, or they may need to be purchased using a debit card. Some parents have been horrified to discover that their children had spent hundreds of pounds of their money and they only found out at the end of the following month when the debit or credit card bills arrived. Apps can be clever in the way they encourage purchases, and children may not always be aware of the repercussions. This is an important conversation that you can have with your child. When setting up an account to allow your children to download apps, it’s really important to pay attention to the options you are provided with to restrain the amounts of money they can spend. You can either set a cash limit or require them to get permission from you every time.
If you consider technology today, smart phones and iPads etc. allow for pictures to be taken almost anywhere and at any time. Selfies are the most common type of picture taken and apps such as snapchat, Instagram and other ‘filter’ based selfie apps allow for instant sharing of those images. We appreciate that, although the minimum age is 13 for many of these apps, many children are still using them so it is important to ensure they know how to use them safely. Speak to your child about the importance of a private account and work with them to make sure theirs is secure. Have conversations around appropriate pictures they can upload to their profiles and remind them that once photographs are in cyberspace, they can end up in the wrong hands and with the wrong type of people.
Dealing with online trolls
The reality is that trolls are just people. These people may be jealous of others and their lives or achievements. They may also enjoy seeing other people hurt or take pride in convincing individuals that they are someone they’re not. If your child has access to social media, they may experience trolling at some point and they need to know how to deal with this. The majority of your child’s experiences online are positive, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when someone attacks. The attack can come from friends or from strangers alike. Common advice is to ignore and delete comments that are irrelevant, and if they're abusive or upsetting to also report the user (to the social media platform, to the police, or both). Remind your child that these people are saying these things to deliberately annoy or upset them, and they're not worth their time. The link below offers further guidance on this issue.
The link below will take you to the CEOP Think U Know activity packs. This website will continue to offer support and guidance throughout the summer holidays, so please keep checking for new activities and information. This website has a bank of excellent resources to use when addressing key online safety issues with your child.
If you’re worried about anything you or your child comes across online, we’d advise you to report it immediately to the relevant organisation and to the site where you or your child saw it. The link below will take you to the internet matters website with direct links to these organisations. The link also provides advice on where to turn to for advice on various forms of inappropriate online behaviour.
If you have immediate safety concerns, these should be reported to your local police force