Hi, this is Susan McLean and today I’ll be talking you through my Top Tips to help keep your child safe online. Parents are the gatekeepers to their child’s online world. They need to be there with them. They need to know what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. This can be a daunting task for parents, especially those who did not grow up with access to the same digital technology that their children have.
Many parents fall into the trap of thinking that their kids know it all. And whilst young people are tech savvy in that they can use the devices and use them well, what they don’t have is cognitive and brain development aligned to that skill. So we know that there is a massive gap between what young children can do online and what they have the capacity to understand.
Teenagers are risk takers. They always have been. And of course, they don’t have the capacity to understand or perceive the risk or the outcome of their actions.
So having an adult in their life to guide them is vital. You don’t have to be a tech expert. You just need to be there as their parent. So here are my top tips to help you keep your child safe in the digital space.
Number one, get devices out of bedrooms and bathrooms. No matter how good a parent you are, you can’t supervise in a bedroom and a bathroom. And sadly, all the images I’ve seen of child exploitation material through my work as a police officer and the nude images that I’ve had to deal with since, none of them are taken in common areas of the house they’re taken where parents can’t supervise.
If your child complains that they like to listen to music in the shower, buy them a Bluetooth speaker, keep the phone in the kitchen. If your child complains that their phone is their alarm clock, head into Kmart and purchase a clock radio.
Have a set of rules, you have rules about acceptable behavior in real life. Make sure those rules extend online. So an online family contract about expectations of use is important.
Know your children’s passcodes and passwords. That is not invading their privacy, that’s being a parent. Make sure that you can, if necessary, get into their accounts if something has gone wrong.
Talk early. Talk often. The earlier you start, the better. But it is never too late to start. Let your children know that no matter what they can come to you.
Use some sort of filtering. Please understand the Internet is a very adult world. It does not come segmented into age appropriate areas, so you need some sort of filtering to help make sure that your children are not exposed to inappropriate, explicit or illegal content.
Learn to say no. It’s a very important word, and it’s one, sadly, that a lot of parents don’t use. They’re too worried about upsetting their child or having their child not like them. It’s not your job to be liked by your children. Your children will love and respect you for saying, no.
Don’t try and be your child’s best friend. That will end with disaster.
Learn about the apps that they use, be there with them, download them, look at them, play with them. Have an appreciation of what the app is, what it does, and how to best protect your children when they use those apps.
Use security and privacy settings. Some apps have really good privacy and security, some not so. But if you’re not using them, it’s like the bike helmet. If it’s not on your head when you fall off, it’s not going to protect you.
Make sure that you limit their online communications to people they know and trust in real life. This isn’t going to remove risk, but it’s going to reduce risk. And that’s all we can hope to do. You cannot remove risk if a child is going online. So what we have to do is identify the risk, minimize and manage it. So unless I know them in real life and I mean really know them, not a friend of a friend. They shouldn’t be hanging out with them online.
And lastly, know where your child is online, just as the same as would in the real world. Know where they’re going, know what they’re doing. and make sure you regularly check in with them. As I said, being an active and involved participant in your child’s online world is the best protective factor that they have. Do not be afraid of technology. It’s not going to harm you if you use it well.
So if you’re interested in more information about how you can keep your children safe online. I thoroughly recommend you check out a copy of my latest book. Sexts, Texts snd Selfies published by Penguin.
This book is available in all good bookstores, or you can visit my website, CyberSafetySolutions.com.au and purchase it online. It’s filled with case studies, with scenarios, lots of talking points that you can use to have these discussions with your children, and there’s also a sample online family safety contract that you might like to use in your household.
I wish you well. Thank you.