As your child grows and becomes more independent, it is only natural that they take this independence online. As we grow, we explore, try new things and sometimes push boundaries and take risks and this is an essential part of growing up. And with all of the potential that the online world and new technology offers, young people now have access to huge opportunities. They use technology to express themselves, explore, and be creative; it has changed the way they communicate.
The internet has changed all of our lives, and your child has grown up during this change. Many of the things that confuse, baffle or even scare us, are part of the everyday for them. Whether you’re a technophobe or a technophile, it’s still likely that you’ll be playing catch-up with the way your child is using the internet. You might wonder whether what they are doing is safe, and you might also be thinking how can I be as good a parent online as I am offline?
Top Tips for Parents
- Be involved in your child’s online life. For many of today’s young people there is no line between the online and offline worlds. Young people use the internet to socialise and grow and, just as you guide and support them offline, you should be there for them online too. Find out what sites they visit and what they love about them, talk to them about what they’re doing, if they know you understand they are more likely to approach you if they need support.
- Encourage your child to go online and explore! There is a wealth of age-appropriate sites online for your children. Encourage them to use sites which are fun, educational and that will help them to develop online skills.
- Keep up-to-date with your child’s development online. Children grow up fast and they will be growing in confidence and learning new skills daily. It’s important that as your child learns more, so do you.
- Set boundaries in the online world just as you would in the real world. Think about what they might see, what they share, who they talk to and how long they spend online. It is important to discuss boundaries at a young age to develop the tools and skills children need to enjoy their time online.
- Know what connects to the internet and how. Your child will use all sorts of devices and gadgets; make sure you’re aware of which ones can connect to the internet, such as their phone or games console. Also, find out how they are accessing the internet – this will affect whether your safety settings are being applied.
- Use parental controls on devices that link to the internet, such as the TV, laptops, computers, games consoles and mobile phones. Parental controls are not just about locking and blocking, they are a tool to help you set appropriate boundaries as your child grows and develops. They are not the answer to your child’s online safety, but they are a good start and they are not as difficult to install as you might think.
- Emphasise that not everyone is who they say they are. Make sure your child knows never to meet up with someone they only know online.
- Know what to do if something goes wrong. Just as in the offline world, you want to help your child when they need it. Therefore, it is important to know when and how to report any problem.
- Visit the Thinkuknow website and watch films and cartoons for you and your children to learn more about safe use of the internet. Your child may have seen these at school, but they can also be a good tool for you to find out more about what young people do online and some of the potential risks.
- Niki Meehan, Head of Primary