The internet has become one of the most important parts of human society, and access to it is fast becoming tantamount to a basic human right.
However, while the internet has achieved a great deal in communication and the sharing of knowledge, it also presents various risks in the forms of scams and exploitation. This is particularly the case for children using the internet, as they may be less likely to identify when something they see or click on isn’t quite right.
That’s why on 6 February, 180 countries and territories will celebrate Safer Internet Day, an awareness campaign dedicated to making the internet a safer and better place for all.
According to the Evening Standard, 55% of children aged 8 to 11 have a smartphone, rising to a remarkable 97% by age 12. That means all these children have access to the internet from an early age.
Concerningly, Ofcom’s Media Use and Attitudes report revealed that 29% of 8-17-year-olds had seen something “worrying or nasty” online in the last 12 months.
So, it’s crucial to help children, grandchildren, or any other child in your life use the internet safely. Read on to find out what you can do.
Talk to your children about safe internet use before they start using it
With children getting internet access from a young age, a good first step in promoting healthy usage is to talk about internet use before they reach this point.
This way, you can introduce them to the internet and its different aspects so they have an awareness of what it is and how it works first, rather than being overwhelmed by everything they can do online.
When they start using their devices to access online spaces, you can also begin by closely supervising them and showing them everything that you discussed together in practice.
Having conversations about internet and technology from the get-go can help ensure they’re prepared to make sensible choices when they start using it independently.
Make them aware of potential dangers
As part of those conversations about safe internet use, it can also be worth helping them be aware of the potential dangers they may encounter online. These discussions might focus on topics such as:
- Grooming, including how to know when someone is behaving inappropriately and what to do
- Scams, perhaps discussing common scams that fraudsters often target people with
- Cyberbullying and what to do if they’re being bullied
- Other offensive messages or images they might come across
- Content that could affect their mental health and wellbeing.
It could also include dangers that are more subtle but still important for them to be aware of, such as photoshopped pictures and other distortions of reality that can affect your child’s sense of self-worth.
Alongside introducing your child to these dangers, it’s crucial to instil in them the importance of telling you if and when they do see something that bothers them. This feedback loop is vital, as it ensures that you can help them deal with negative online situations that your child may experience.
By doing this, you can have some peace of mind knowing that your child is aware of the dangers they might face, and that they’ll respond properly if they do.
Use the available technology to provide safe online spaces for your children
Even after speaking to your children and making sure they know what is and isn’t safe online, you may still be concerned that they will inadvertently come across content that isn’t appropriate for them.
In that case, you may want to consider using the available technology and tools to provide safe online spaces for them.
For example, you could:
- Set screen time limits for internet use on their devices
- Block inappropriate content and websites
- Receive activity reports so you can review what they’re seeing and which websites they visit
- Put limits on certain apps or games.
There are many apps and programmes available that you can use to do this. Many devices also now come with them built in, so you could set them up when you initially give your child a phone, tablet, or computer.
It is of course important to be honest with your children if you decide to do this, especially for older children and teenagers. They may feel that tools like these undermine their judgement or your trust in them, even if your intentions are pure.
So, it’s sensible to be transparent and tell them that you’ve put controls and measures in place, and explain that it’s for their benefit.
That way, they’re less likely to feel constrained, and might better understand the importance of being safe online.
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This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.