Tips for helping children stay safe online.

Since the start of lockdown in March, working from home has brought several internet-related issues into focus, not least how to keep our children safe online.

As children head back to school, internet usage is likely to remain at an all-time high. A report published in March 2020 (just prior to the first global lockdown) showed that almost 90% of ten to fifteen-year-olds went online daily. On school days, almost 50% of them spent three or more hours on websites and social media. That was then. Currently, with the ‘new normal’ providing a stop-start schooling schedule, children’s internet consumption is undeniably much higher.

How can we keep children safe while they are online?

child looking at inappropriate content online

Fortunately, there is a lot of user-friendly guidance available to make the task a little easier, and to maintain the internet as an amazing tool of safe discovery and connectivity. Here is our rundown of the key things to be aware of and some tips in case they crop up:

Disingenuous or fake news

Statistics from this year’s Safer Internet Day showed that up to 48% of children said they came across misleading content at least once a day.
Sometimes it seems fake news is everywhere you look so it is important that you remind children of the below.
• Do not to take everything at face value.
• To question things.
• To seek out a different reliable source.
• To limit the spread of questionable content by not sharing it further.

With older children, it is important to talk about algorithms and explain that the more we read on one viewpoint, the more we will be shown a very narrow selection of content. Ultimately this ‘filter bubble’ can reinforce an unbalanced perspective.

Unsuitable content.

It is inevitable that as children mature and further explore the internet, that they will come across inappropriate content. Discussing the possibility with them somewhat regularly is the best counterbalance, enabling them to deal with the situation should it arise. Additionally, remind them that they have the option of applying content filters.

Online connections

With the increased popularity of social media, gaming platforms and online chat rooms, children are going to ‘meet’ new people online. This is a fact of life that both you and they need to be prepared for. Encourage them to trust their instincts.
Inform them to be cautious about the information they share online. It’s also important to explain to them how to block or report someone who makes them feel uncomfortable. Remind them they don’t have to accept friendship requests from anyone, especially people they don’t know offline. The critical tool you can give children is the confidence to share their concerns with you, without the fear of judgement or punishment.

Stick to the basics 

child's mother ensuring he is using the internet safely

Revisit the fundamentals of internet safety with children, plus take another look at your own set-up too.

• Resetting passwords on a regular basis.
• Revisit privacy settings for apps so that only people they know can view their posts and images.
• Beware of location services and tagging highlighting your exact position.
• Ensure wi-fi connections are safe (wi-fi hot spots can appear a gift to a teenager on the move who is low on data, but they are always unsecure, meaning anyone can hack into what they’re doing and steal personal data).
• Understand what phishing emails and texts look like and making them aware of how authentic they can look.
• Talk to them about their digital footprint, and how content they place online now will be there forever!

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