Children’s safety on the internet covers such a broad area and everyones circumstances are different. This article aims to cover the major areas with suggestions on how you can approach children on this topic.
Context for children, what is the internet?
Before you explain the potential threats using the internet its a good idea to give your child some background on the internet is and how it works. You can start with a simple diagram of connected devices such as http://www.bypeople.com/internet-kids-explained. The main points to get across are:
- Internet is made up of many connected computers
- People connecting to the internet can be a friend down the road or it could be a complete stranger across the other side of the world.
- You don’t know who is on the other side of the computer and it could be another child or an adult. Even an adult pretending to be a child. (Refer to the video below from the National Crime Agency in the UK).
Another more detailed source of information can be found here:
Start talking to your child about the internet
There is a very good video by Planet Nutshell included below. Some of the points covered in the video are:
- How big is the internet and is it part of the real world? Main points to make are:
- It is NOT the real world
- The internet can be accessed from many devices including computers, mobiles, tablets (iPad’s etc), games consoles (e.g. PlayStation) and even the TV
- What are the good things on the internet? Main points to make are:
- There are many good things on the internet and its important not simply highlight the potential harms but what value the internet can bring
- Benefits such as entertainment (games, movies), learning new things, communicating with others and sharing ideas
- Is the internet made just for kids? Main points to make are:
- Only some of the internet is made for kids
- Pictures and other things on the internet kids should not see
For children 8 – 10 years old there is a great video produced by the National Crime Agency in the UK. I think it’s appropriate for 8 – 10 but ultimately you will need to decide, the video is quite confronting and unless the child understands the theme it may be misinterpreted. Even for an 8 year old, you would want to pause it during particular parts and take more time to discuss.
Show and explain to your child one or both of the videos and then cover topics on the next section “Common threats to being online”.
Common threats to being online
One of the things you can do with your children is to talk to them and explain the common threats that they may come across when using the internet. This is something that can be done repeatedly to ensure they become aware.
The unfortunate thing is that they may be searching for something innocent and then come across inappropriate content. There are many forms of inappropriate content and whats considered inappropriate for a child varies from family to family. There are some obvious topic’s which you can explain at your discretion such as nudity, violence and bad language. You can suggest the following to your child:
- Call an adult and be open to discussion about what happens in the internet. The more open you are with your child and his/hers internet use, the higher the chance you of you finding content which might not be appropriate. Try not to be judgemental and encourage them to come to you with any concerns.
- They wont be in trouble. Explain that they are not going to be in trouble if they do happen to come across inappropriate content.
In-game chatting and chat rooms
There are an ever increasing number of games that allow you to chat with opponents and it’s not just limited to the computer. Game consoles also have the ability to use chat rooms and in-game chatting.
- Encourage your kids to interact online only with those they know, such as friends and relatives. You may even want to put a blanket rule of no chatting unless its someone you know in the real world but this is a little hard to police.
- Explain to your children that not everyone tells the truth. When chatting and you don’t know who the other person is and what their intentions are.
- If a person on the chat asks your age, where you live, your contact number and if your parents work, then an adult should be contacted. Avoid giving any information and the child should be educated on how to block unwanted chats in the chat room or game.
There are a wide number of resources available from government and organisations tackling the topic of Cyberbullying. It’s recommended to refer to a local government site if possible on what you need to do if your child is experiencing Cyberbullying. One thing to remember is that it can go both ways, your child could be the bully so it’s good to remind your child of the following statement:
“If you wouldn’t do it face to face – Don’t do it online”.
One example site for Cyberbullying is https://www.acorn.gov.au/learn-about-cybercrime/cyber-bullying, as mentioned:
“Cyber-bullying or stalking occurs when someone engages in offensive, menacing or harassing behaviour through the use of technology. It can happen to people at any age, anytime, and often anonymously.
Examples of cyber-bullying include:
* posting hurtful messages, images or videos online
* repeatedly sending unwanted messages online
* sending abusive texts and emails
* excluding or intimidating others online
* creating fake social networking profiles or websites that are hurtful
* nasty online gossip and chat, and
* any other form of digital communication which is discriminatory, intimidating, intended to cause hurt or make someone fear for their safety.”
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, everyones circumstances are different. Studies concerning childhood bullying suggest that children with disabilities are often the target of harassment, typically during school. If this is something which you can relate to, here is a site which covers Cerebral Palsy and Bullying https://www.cerebralpalsyguidance.com/cerebral-palsy/living/bullying.
There is a vast number of online scams that adults fall for every day, so it obviously that children can also be tempted also and need to be informed of the online scams and clicking links that they are not familiar with.
- Free music: These programs offer free music for in exchange for personal information or other details. Stick to music programs like iTunes, or online stores such as https://www.spotify.com or just by CDs to play it safe.
- Freebies: Most “free” stuff offered on the internet is a ploy to collect information. Tell your kids to avoid the freebies, they are usually a trap.
- Ads: When browsing the internet they might be presented with advertising banners on the site they are visiting. There is no reason why a child to need to click the advertising as most of the time it takes then to unwanted information or potential scams. Just ask them not to click them.
- Ask your child to stick with what is familiar to them and inform you of any new places they are visiting on the internet.
- Teach your kids to keep personal information private
- Never click on links or open attachments the child receives in their email from people/addresses unknown to the child.
Don’t believe everything you find on the internet
- Encourage your kids to come to you if they encounter a problem
- Creating an internet safety contract
- Empower your children to handle problems
- Keep your computer safe and clean
Tools parents can use
Tools for inappropriate Content
- Ensure you have a way of securing the web browser for your child. Regularly review the browsing habits of your child and block inappropriate sites.
- Subscribe to sites that notify of the latest scams such as:
Tools for In-game chatting and chat rooms
- Create an account for yourself and get familiar with the game and its settings for your child.
Tools for online Scams
- Follow the guide on how to share on computer with your family to ensure your computer is as safe and secured as possible.
After running through the content of this page with your child, you can get them to try the this kids quiz.