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Talking to Your Child About Online Safety

Talking to Your Child About Online Safety

By Amy Scholl

“Filter a website, and you protect a student for a day.
Educate students about online safety, and you protect
your child for a lifetime.”
~ Christopher Harris

A study conducted by the Pew Research Centre found that 78% of the children today have their own mobile phones and 95% of them have access to the Internet daily. For parents, it is undoubtedly difficult to talk about dating apps, sex, and porn, especially when the kids are still young. Nevertheless, with the increasing numbers of cybercrime and cyberbullying all over the world, having the talk seems to be the easiest way to keep your child safe online.

Take advantage of this Comprehensive Cyberbullying Guide for Parents.

If you are wondering where to begin, here are some pieces of advice you need for screening your child’s online security and effectively talking about it.

Communicating About Online Safety

  1. Evaluate the stakes
    When you are confused and hesitate to start talking, remind yourself of what are the stakes involved and try to gain clarity in your thoughts. Ask yourself the following questions and remember to answer them to yourself...
    • What is at risk if I avoid talking about online safety to my kid?
    • Can I keep my child under surveillance all the time?
    • If my child is not safe online, what are the odds that he/she can face trouble?
    • Is my child’s health at stake if he/she is not safe online?
  2. Educate yourself first
    Truth be told, we never had any Internet or online safety hazards in our childhood, we never grew up seeing our parents worrying over our social media accounts. But the scenario is different now, and kids, by all means, are more tech-savvy than we were. So when it comes to talking about online safety, parents must keep themselves updated and well-informed before they confront their kids. They can take rely on online resources and blogs to gain information about online privacy, digital footprints, screening devices, and smart communication. Just make sure that you are well-versed with any question that your child may ask you about being safe online.

    Educating yourself as a parent is very important given the recent advancements in technology and digital platforms. If you do not know how tech is evolving, how will you be able to talk to your teenagers on what they should and what they should not be doing on the internet. You also need to keep yourself updated and read more about all the dangerous elements that are lurking in the online world by following some great news publications that report on such issues. You can also use the same information and show it to your kids to help make them understand.

  3. Don’t wait for something to happen
    If you want to ensure your child’s online safety, start today. Parents often procrastinate initiating the conversation, wondering where to begin, and end up regretting it later. Consider taking baby steps right from your child’s late childhood and early adolescence (10-12 years). Be specific in your conversation, ask in a way your child will feel free to answer. Discuss the online safety rules before your child gets his/her personal mobile device or laptop, so that he/she can start the digital life with the safety rules already been told.

    Quick Tips for Initiating the Conversation

    1. Ask them about their friends and what sites they explore together.
    2. Have friendly communications and ask your child if he/she has seen something uncomfortable on the internet. If yes, let him/her specify the incident.
    3. Reassure your child that they can always come to you and share if anything troubles them.
    4. Teach them about cyberbullying and how it can be avoided.
    5. Show them some basic online safety tricks like blocking someone who is
    6. disturbing or reporting a content that by any means is hurtful or obscene.
    7. Set strict time-frames for using and not using the Internet. For example, no online activity after 8 pm, or no social networking before 18 years, etc.
  4. Explore the internet together
    Communication about online safety becomes easier when you can explain with examples. Once in a while, go browsing the internet together. Explore the sites that your child uses, ask him/her if there is any content that has ever upset him/her. Be open-minded and positive, talk in a friendly way and encourage your child to come up with any questions he/she has. You may encounter some awkward content in your child’s phone or computer, be prepared to take them positively and explain with reasons why kids should not browse through them.
  5. Discuss the safety measures
    Sit together with your child and make a list of the sites that he/she can and cannot explore. Make sure that the decision is mutual, don’t make your kids feel that you are thrusting your decision on them. Discourage them to share their passwords and other personal information with friends. Come to terms with them for the amount of time they can spend on the social networks. If you are using a secure home network or using screening apps for online safety, let them know about it and explain to them the necessity of doing so.

    One thing to look into... Is your child using decoy apps to hide photos? You may need to supervise their phone activities about decoy apps.

  6. Remember

    1. To empathize with your kid. Don’t make him/her feel judged.
    2. Encourage them to ask questions and be ready to answer them.
    3. Explain with reasons and examples the risks involved in unsafe internet use.
    4. Reassure them that they can come up to you no matter what.
    5. Let them decide for themselves, just be there to guide them in the right direction.
    6. Communicate about online safety tips as often as you need to.

Internet safety always begins at home, with parents. Having an open conversation about online safety not only helps in ensuring that our kids are digitally safe and responsible, it also allows us to discover our strength as parents. So keep yourself updated at all times, implement the necessary rules at home, use screening and child monitor applications, and at any point, if your resources fail, remember that help is always available out there.

About the Author:
Amy Scholl is Youth Technology Safety Specialist at KidGuard, dedicated to finding the best child safety measures for parents, grounded in research. Being knowledgeable about youth online usage is a key component of effective 21st-century parenting.
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