With a growing trend in the number of young people using popular social media apps like Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc, now more than ever it is vital to ensure your child’s safety online. Without wanting to make this post a heavy one, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and you can never really predict what could happen (and even then it could be too late). As with any parent, you will have your child’s best interests at heart so here are a few tips that will help you ensure their safety and wellbeing to allow you to feel more at ease about their technology use.
1) Checking in with your child’s wellbeing
This goes without saying and extends beyond the use of the internet– but have you checked in on your child recently and how they are? Strike up a conversation to figure out what’s going on and how they’re generally feeling. Children need to know that they have someone to talk to and that they have a strong support system for whatever it is they might be going through.
2) Have a conversation about potential dangers online
The first step to preventing any kind of issue is being aware of them. Make sure to take some time to explain all of the potential dangers your child could face online, and what they can do about them.
If you have younger children and prefer a less intimidating approach – perhaps offer to play a mobile game, watch a Youtube video or make a Tiktok with them. Most apps now have safety features like: making your account private, unfollowing/unfriending someone, blocking someone from messaging you – given the opportunity, bring up the purpose of these features on the apps. It’s important that your child understands the significance of them – making them aware that they’re available means they’re more likely to use it when they need it.
3) Supervising age-restricted content online
At times, it may be necessary to establish some boundaries for technology use. Even though more websites are now monitoring age-restricted content, you might be required to monitor or limit: what apps/websites are being used, how long they’re being used, what time they’re being used etc. There is also parental control software available for you to download free of charge online so is easily accessible to everyone. These are great for giving you a piece of mind without requiring you to keep a watchful eye on your child’s online activities 24/7.
4) Being aware of who your child may be speaking to
Do you have some suspicions about an individual contacting your child? Is your child being more irritable than usual or keeping to themselves more than usual recently? Make sure to get in touch with the CEOP or the NSPCC helpline for support and advice on this. If your child would rather speak to someone else, Childline is also available for if they would prefer to speak to someone anonymously.
5) Never share personal information online
As is the case for anyone (and not just children) – make sure to let them know to never share any personal information or details online with a stranger. There’s a reason for the saying, “stranger danger”. You never know when your personal information will fall into the wrong hands. Encourage your child to ask you what (and with who) they should or shouldn’t share personal information with. If in doubt, tell them to avoid disclosing any kind of information at all costs.