Parenting in the cyber world is a daunting prospect and yet online safeguarding is so critical. Some of us have come late and somewhat reluctantly to social media, and cyberbullying, trolling and the like are another unanticipated worry of modern parenthood. However, there needs to be an ongoing conversation on how to parent in the cyber world.
Whilst we think we know 90% of what children are viewing online, the reality is 90% of teenagers say their parents have no idea what they are up to. Non-web savvy parents are the weak link.
Educating parents to keep their children safe is the most effective online safeguarding measure. We must understand and enter their world. A few years ago we might have been advised to restrict or avoid children’s use of devices or access to the internet. This by itself is no longer an effective option. What is more effective is teaching our children how to be safe online.
Children today are digital natives and do not know life before the internet and social media. Parents are in dire need of upgrading their knowledge to be more actively involved in their cyber life.
How to Parent in the Cyberworld
Some tips to navigate the world of parenting in the digital age –
- Take an interest: speak to your children about what they are doing online. Have real conversations with them and seek to understand stay relevant.
- Parental controls: They are useful for restricting your children’s access but we need to remain a step ahead. Remember that children will always test boundaries. It is important to not rely on controls you have in place as the main way to keep them safe. You need to educate them about the dangers online.
- Apps: Set rules about downloading and buying apps. Make it clear that children have to ask before they buy anything or try anything. Some of these Apps are inappropriate and could also have adverts pop up that are not age appropriate.
How Parents Can Practise Online Safeguarding
A parents goal in teaching children how to be safe online must include educating them about the appropriate behaviours. Empowering them to avoid the dangers online and reinforce by repetition. Just as with teaching children anything that will stick, you will need to repeat and keep the communication lines open.
- Raising Awareness: Parents and adults need to explain what the potential dangers are online. With respect to schools, they should realise the part they play in this as they are liable for the outcomes of online activity on school premises.
- Details Secret: Children must understand that they are to keep their information private online. Not everything is as it seems and they should be careful where they drop their information and what they share online. However, our children need to know that once they drop their information online; or download something it is easy to constantly be tracked online. They must make sure it is a trusted site.
- Social media sites. Recent research has revealed that one in four children aged between six and twelve have shared personal information with people they do not know. Did you know that Facebook is not the most popular social media choice for teenagers anymore? There are several new Apps that pop up and as a parent, you might not be able to keep up. It is more effective to tackle online behaviour the same way you would social behaviour. We should reinforce the idea that online behaviour is no different from how they should act in the playground or socially. Teach them that a stranger online is still a stranger and infact it is easier to create a false identity online.
Privacy and Openness
Some of the ways to protect our children are to have them use their Computers and devices where parental and adult supervision is.
- Boundaries: Talk to your children about this and explain consequences to them. What happens in cyberspace is captured and stays online forever. Impulsive and uncontrolled behaviour may have lasting consequences beyond what they can imagine. A potential boss, the school of their dream or even a potential relationship partner can pull up so much information online about them.
- Is it Appropriate: Teach your children to ask if it is appropriate. If something feels wrong or is making you hide, then it is probably wrong. Ask someone, report or stop it. They should learn to ask themselves if they should post before they do. Once something goes online it is there forever.
- Protection: Discuss what they should do if they feel unsafe or threatened, they should not respond to online bullying; or share information they would not be able to discuss with their parents. As parents, we have a duty to create awareness for them where they know what is right and wrong. The internet can be used positively if children learn how to use it the right way.
- Know How to Get Help: Our children need to know what to do when something inappropriate happens online. They should tell someone, and have access to a safe and non-judgemental space to report.
- Digital Detox: The pressure to constantly be connected and online can take its toll. Encourage your children to have a regular digital detox, disconnect from the online world regularly and do other things. In reality, some children are secretly pleased when their parents insist on a digital detox. They are able to disconnect from the constant pressure to be available and respond. When asked when they are not online, they can simply say their parents took their devices away. Children need to sit less and get more active.
We need more parents to be digital savvy and know how to ensure that they have exposed their children to the basics of online safeguarding. Therefore, we need to be involved, to see both the attraction and pitfalls of the internet. In reality, it is only then that we can put into place effective boundaries and parameters.
The online world is incredible we must learn to embrace it, enjoy it, and as the children say, get with the programme! [Read: Hazards permissive Parenting]