Exploring Internet Safety with Your Child

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Exploring Internet Safety with Your Child

The Internet is without a doubt an incredible tool with many advantages. It gives us access to information instantaneously and enables us to keep in touch with friends and family, even if they live overseas. On the other hand, the Internet can also be quite a sinister place, which is cause for concern for many parents. When your child reaches a suitable age, it would be wise to chat to them on a regular basis about appropriate Internet use and staying safe online. They need to be aware of the different dangers and how to avoid them. I have teamed up with an independent school in Oxfordshire to help advise parents on how to teach their kids about Internet safety.

Begin by completing some research about Internet safety so that you can give your child some truly informed guidance. There are various resources in books and, ironically, on the web that cover topics from viruses and scamming to cyberbullying and stalking. Once you’re clued up, have a chat with your youngster and try and figure out how they are actually spending their time online; which websites and apps do they prefer to use? Make sure they are all age appropriate and, if they aren’t, explain to your child the reasons why you would prefer they didn’t visit those websites. Make sure to check-in with your child frequently to ensure everything is ok and they aren’t facing any trouble online.

Of course, you don’t want to scare your child and the amount of information you choose to disclose to your child regarding the dangers of the Internet is dependent on their age and maturity, so it’s entirely up to you what you decide to share. Maybe start by clarifying that talking to strangers online is just as dangerous as it would be in real life, sometimes it’s even worse. Explain to them that people who are hiding behind a screen can easily pretend they are someone else, so your child can never be too certain of who they’re talking to.

Ensure parental controls are in place and all social media profiles are set to private. What’s more, you should warn your child that they should never accept friend requests or follows from people unless they know for sure who that person is. Your child may ask you questions whilst you’re chatting them and it’s wise to be as honest as possible. What’s more, you should keep an eye on their Internet use and know what their passwords are, just in case.

Once your child is aware of the risks involved with the Internet, then you can start to establish some rules. Some parents decide that the Internet can only be used in a communal area of the house and not in their bedrooms. Other rules are more concrete, such as “never meet up with someone you’ve only spoken to online” or “never respond to threatening messages”. You might want to try and limit screen time to a set amount of hours per day to ensure your child has a healthy balance and is still getting enough exercise and face-to-face interaction.

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