Security Series – Intro to Online Safety
The rise of the internet age and social media has offered people many opportunities. We now have a seemingly infinite amount of knowledge at our fingertips. We can connect with friends and family around the world at a moment’s notice. Our families are learning and growing every day – with the internet entwined deeply in our lives.
It has a downside though. The internet can also be a dark place where predators can lurk. It can provide dangerous knowledge. It can also be a distraction or an addiction when misused. As adults, we can plunge into the abyss and make our decisions about what is good and what should be avoided – but kids can’t make that decision for themselves.
As a parent, it will be up to you to police your children’s internet usage until they’re old enough to take responsibility themselves. In my security series I aim to provide information that helps parents with this.
Rules and Boundaries
Have clear rules such as what Apps can be used, who can be added as a friend, what websites can be visited, how much time can be spent online and so on.
Explain to your children why you are setting these rules and boundaries. Not just “You can’t accept friend invites because I said so”, but “It’s dangerous to accept invites online from strangers. It’s like talking to a stranger in the street – you wouldn’t do that, would you? People online can be bad people too. If anyone adds you to social media (or an app that’s being discussed) and you don’t know exactly who they are, you need to come and chat to me first.”
It’s important to get across from an early age that online isn’t some mystical invisible environment where everything disappears. It’s real, even if we can’t physically see it. If your kids know not to do anything online that they wouldn’t do in real life it provides a good foundation for understanding potential dangers.
You don’t have to go into the details of exactly what bad people will do, but you do need to make your child understand that the internet has dangers just like the real world. For example, you might teach your child to look both ways before crossing the street, but did you think to teach them never to open an email attachment unless they are expecting it and know what it is? There are lots of new things to think about!
There are a wealth of parental controls available on phones, tablets and computers. It’s important that you spend the time researching the tools available to you as a parent. Everything can be controlled if you take the time to figure it out. Don’t blanket ban things though, as this can be unreasonable and ban the good with the bad. You need to investigate usage and control fairly.
Educate yourself about Apps and their content
There are constantly new Apps popping up and going forward I think the modern mum (or dad) needs to get on top of things.
I’m the “tech mum” in my circle and I am often amazed at how little some of my friends know about the world that their kids are delving into.
The CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) website offers further information for a variety of age ranges that provides information for you and age-appropriate ways of explaining how to be safe online.