Kids love mobile devices. They seem to be surgically attached to many of them and the amount of time that our kids spend online is increasing, especially in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic pushed us all online and away from face-to-face activity including everyday school work.
It’s not difficult to see that an increased amount of online and screen time could result in an increased risk that children will be exposed to unsuitable or even harmful content and contact when they’re online. So, it is important that parents and guardians understand what kids are doing online and how to keep them safe.
Looking at expert guidance, you should take a look at the NSPCC website. The NSPCC recommends that we start a conversation with our children about online safety. Reassuring children that we are interested in their lives and their online and offline interests shows that we recognise how important the internet is to the younger generation. As adults with responsibility for kids, we need to build trust so that our children will be open and honest about what they do and what they see online, and will be willing to tell us who they interact with and what is being said.
Talking openly with your children about why they want to use certain apps or visit certain sites will let you understand what they are doing and why, and crucially, let you determine if that is suitable for them.
Alongside a spirit of openness with the kids, you should agree a simple set of rules. Things like ‘don’t post personal information’ and ‘don’t become friends with people you don’t know’ should form the backbone of these simple rules. Rules like these are fine as long as you know that your child understands what personal information is or what constitutes a picture that shouldn’t be shared, so make sure you have that discussion too.
The Safety Net Kids website has a great and simple set of 10 rules that you can talk to your child about and agree that they will abide by, along with lots of information about online safety and specifically mobile phone safety.
One of the often-overlooked areas that Safety Net Kids looks at is peer pressure, offering some useful tips on how to deal with suggestions, requests and influences from their peers that are potentially harmful or inappropriate.
As responsible adults, it’s our responsibility to keep our kids safe when we allow them online or give them the means to be online. It’s easy to hand them devices and leave them to get on with it but we need to ask ourselves if that is a wise or even responsible way to act. We know what dangers exist online and we need to use our experience of the world to protect our kids so they can enjoy an online world free from harm.