The Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency (CEOP) was set up to help keep children safe online. Their website offers advice to pupils, parents and carers on a vast range of issues. You can also use their site to report to the police any online behaviour which you believe to be abusive or illegal. Click here to visit their website.
The UK Safer Internet Centre also offers advice for young people, parents and carers. You will find instructions here on how to protect privacy, block unwanted visitors and report inappropriate posts on social media sites such as Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter. There are also instructions on how to set up parental controls on internet access at home. Most importantly there is advice on the sort of healthy conversation young people and their parents can have about internet use. Click here to visit their website.
We know that parents are keen to help their children use the internet in a way which is both productive and free from danger. The following guidance from the NSPCC is very useful:
The internet is great for learning, sharing, connecting and creating. So try and balance how you guide your child in online safety with an understanding of why they want to use it. You don’t want your child to feel they can’t come to you if they encounter a problem online.
Set rules and agree boundaries as a family
- Set boundaries for how long your child can spend online and what they can do.
- Agree this as a family so that access to devices can be shared fairly.
- Remember there are tools that can help you manage and monitor access and use across all devices.
Talk about online safety and get involved
- Have conversations about online safety little and often and build it into other conversations.
- Ask questions about what they do online, such as what sites they visit and who they talk to.
- Make the use of the internet a family activity.
- Remember to share these rules with babysitters, child-minders and other family members.
- Talk to other parents about internet use, such as what they do and don’t allow.
Be aware of who your child is talking to online
- Make sure your child is aware that strangers can pop up anywhere online: via email, instant messenger, social networking sites or online games.
- Your child may feel that they know someone well, even if they’ve only played a game with them online. Remember to talk to them about what they share with people they’ve only met online.
- Discuss boundaries and say you’d like to be friends on social networks, initially at least.
- Ask your child to explain the games they are playing, so that you understand what these involve.
- Ensure your child knows what to do if someone they don’t know contacts them – e.g. ask you for advice.
- Show your child how to report abuse and how to block people on the websites they use.
Make sure that game content is age-appropriate
- Make sure you understand the age ratings on games, online movies and websites, and check the ratings of the games your child is playing.
Use parental and privacy controls
- Check the privacy settings on social media and websites.
- Adjust parental controls to suit your child’s age and maturity.
- Make sure your child knows that they must logout of their online accounts each time they finish using them.
For guidance from the Department for Education, click here.
If your daughter is getting her first smartphone, you may also be interested in downloading the free “SelfieCop” app, which teaches kids to stop and think before taking or sharing photos. It works in 2 ways:
1. Everytime the phone’s camera is activated, a message appears to remind kids that their photos could (ultimately) be seen by anyone.
2. SelfieCop can also send parents copies of photos taken by the camera, so that they can be reviewed for safety (until their children are older).
The idea of this app is to teach safe behaviour early on. Then, as children grow up, they are more likely to think twice about their digital image. For more details about this app, click here.