How to keep our kids safe online – start by talking about it

Whether or not you’re lucky enough to be a parent or grandparent, as adults we should all be concerned about the safety of children online. That’s why, on Safer Internet Day, a day dedicated to promoting the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people, I wanted to share some thoughts on what we can do about it. Because we all have a responsibility to look out for the generation of tomorrow.

Firstly, let’s agree on a few basic truths. Today’s generation of children are unlike any that have come before them. The fortunate ones have grown up with technology all around them, and children are engaging and interacting with technology from an ever-younger age. What’s more, this isn’t always a case of stealing mum’s mobile phone, or dad’s iPad. No, much of it is technology aimed specifically at kids.

It’s not a surprise therefore that today’s generation of children are often seen glued to their phones, tablets and connected toys. And while most of this technology is incredible stuff, the unfortunate reality is that it often opens children up to a whole host of dangers. These might seem like trivialities to the younger generation, but how many children forget to inform their parents about who they are talking to online, the pages they are visiting and what they are sharing.

So what can be done about it, and how can we ensure that children are able to take advantage of the many benefits of technology, while also protecting them from its darker side? As with many things in this world, talking about it helps.

Below are some conversation starters you can use to help talk about these issues with children. These are from Safer Internet Day’s online resource, but there are lots of others out there should you want more inspiration.

Get the conversation started on a positive note:

  • Ask them what they like most about the internet and why?
  • What’s their favourite game/app/site?
  • Ask them to show you the most creative thing they’ve made online, e.g. a video they’ve made, or picture they’ve drawn.
  • Explain how the internet offers brilliant opportunities for making connections with others. Ask them who they like to keep in touch with online and what apps or services do they use?

Talk about safety:

  • Ask them what they would do if they saw that a friend online needed some help or support?
  • Ask them how they stay safe online? What tips do they have and where did they learn them?
  • Ask them to show you how to do something better or safer online.
  • Ask them to tell you what it’s okay to share online. What is it not okay to share online?
  • Do they know where to go for help, where to find safety advice and how to use safety tools on their favourite apps and games?

Discuss digital lives and wellbeing:

  • Ask them how the internet and technology makes their life better?
  • Ask how does the internet make them feel? Do different apps and games makes them feel differently?
  • Ask what could they do if being online was making them feel worse rather than better?
  • Ask them how might they know if they were using the internet and technology too much?

Talk about respect:

  • Ask what could they do if someone online was making them or someone they know feel worried or upset?
  • Who do they look up to or respect online? Why?
  • Ask them if people can say or do whatever they want online? Why / why not?
  • Ask what is different about talking online to someone compared to talking face to face? Is there anything that is the same?
  • Do they have any tips for how to be positive and show respect online?

In the hyper-connected world in which we live, it really is the responsibility of all adults to protect children online. And Safer Internet Day is the perfect opportunity to talk to your child about using the internet safely, responsibly and positively.

If you want to find out more there’s a whole host of resources to be found on the Safer Internet Day website, here: https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre

And if you’re interested in joining the discussion on how to keep children safe online, we’ll be hosting a Twitter chat from 13:00 GMT today. You can get involved by including #SetUpSafe in your tweet.

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