How can you teach your children to use the internet safely? It’s a question we think about a lot, as parents of children who are already adept with parental tablets and laptops alike.
By Leanne Romney
They know the internet is a magical entity capable of answering obscure questions; providing printable templates of pretty much any animal to colour in; and serving up endlessly-repeatable videos of startled cats, Stampy’s Minecraft exploits and loom band tutorials.
What they don’t know is anything about viruses, online privacy, phishing, social networking etiquette, and any other internet safety and/or security issue you can think of.
Teaching them about this now and in the future is our job, and the challenge of getting it right is intimidating – even for the most computer savvy of us.
But remember that there’s a whole industry of internet safety and security experts, many of whom have children of their own, and have to face the same task of rearing safe, responsible internet citizens.
Using their expertise, we have put together 10 Top Tips, a guide to start the conversations with your children and to encourage computer literacy and resilience.
1. START DISCUSSING INTERNET SAFETY AT AN EARLY AGE
One of the key things is to start the process of discussing online safety with your children at an early age, right from when they start to engage in any activity that involves the internet.
They might still be using the computer with you alongside, rather than independently and this offers the opportunity to highlight the fact that the online world parallels the real world and that there are both safe and unsafe things out there.
It will also give you an excellent opportunity to discuss the things that are there to protect us “keep us safe”, e.g. Internet Security, passwords, virus software, and parental controls.
As they get older and begin to use the internet more independently, widen the circle, give them more responsibility in a supervised manner.
For example, if you let them start an account with Club Penguin or LEGO or CBBC-CBeebies, help them create a sensible password and then use the opportunity to explain why they should use different passwords for each account and possible consequences of not doing so.
Don’t be afraid to check out all your answers to possible questions beforehand…..remember if in doubt…Google it!
2. IF YOU WOULDN’T DO IT FACE TO FACE-DON’T DO IT ONLINE
During my delivery in schools around Blackburn with Darwen, the advice I give to the young people across both primary and secondary schools is: “If you wouldn’t do it face to face-Don’t do it online”.
In my primary assembly, I highlight through role play, the way that you wouldn’t start a conversation with a complete stranger in the street in the town centre, the premise is simple, I pretend to be doing my shopping, and then walk up to one of the students and begin to ask them, “what’s your name, Where do you live,
What’s your favourite colour” As you can imagine the children think I have taken leave of my senses, but it makes the point crystal clear.
Just because you feel protected by the apparent distance that a screen gives between you and the person you’re talking to, you must remember that online is still in the real world.
Mid to late teens need to be aware and more importantly to remember that everything that they do over the web is captured forever and could come back to haunt them. Many employers and university admissions offices look at social media profiles when researching candidates.
So that picture that’s so funny now could be a real issue later on.
3. BEWARE OF STRANGERS BEARING GIFTS
Adults have proven time and time again to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks and therefore we can’t expect our children to be any better, especially given that their sense of curiosity is far more acute and there sense of caution far less developed.
Children do not behave much differently online and in the real world. So it’s great to use real world analogies to explain to them, hackers being a type of criminal that breaks into your house through the computer rather than through the window- it makes it easy to understand.
Teach them to beware of strangers bearing gifts, just as you would in the real world. Don’t allow them to open a mail package if they do not know who has sent it or have not got permission to do so, the same goes for unsolicited email with its attachments.
Could they fall prey to someone who took over their friends social media account and sent out malware?
Yes, probably, however if you ask yourself the same question, the answer is likely to be the same.
It is not always possible to prevent the attempts of hackers, but fore warned is fore armed, advise caution and remember:
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
4. ONCE YOU HAVE WRITTEN IT, YOU CAN’T DELETE IT
We need to make our children and Young People aware that the internet is a fantastic place, but you need to be careful what you do and what you say when you are there.
Advice to not say things which they wouldn’t talk about in conversations with family is the best course of action. Think about what they do and say, they may well regret hurting someone or being hurt themselves.
Warn them, that once they have written something it can’t be deleted. If what they are saying or doing is controversial it could be copied time and time again and could come back to bite them , even much later in life when they apply to college, university or employment.
They need to be aware of how they connect too, the gadgets that they use all need to be protected. But this does not stand alone; the applications and services need to be protected. Teach them to use sensible passwords and protection.
They need not to be afraid to ask for help, there are lots of places and people who can show them what to do and how to behave online.
Teach them to use reputable sites online to check their security:
Get safe On-Line & UK Safer internet is great places to start