Internet Safety for Parents: How Can You Keep Your Child Safe Online?
This guide on internet safety for parents contains 10 tips on how to keep children safe online, how and where to report abuse, and how young people are vulnerable on the internet.
To keep your child safe when using the internet you need to know what they get up to on it, what the risks are, and find ways to communicate these risks.
Your tasks include helping your child to:
- Recognise the traps of social media.
- Understand the consequences of oversharing.
- Learn that the internet is permanent.
- Maintain privacy.
- Be suspicious of strangers.
- Think before they type!
Risks of the Internet
Children have always had to handle schoolyard politics, rumours, and fights. But now a bad day can follow a child home and into their bedroom because bullies can target their peers via phones, computers, and tablets. It’s a worrying thought for parents, and cyber bullying isn’t the only concern. Other risks include online grooming, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and emotional abuse.
Grooming is when an adult (or older adolescent) develops an emotional connection with a child for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or human trafficking. Grooming can happen online, face-to-face, by a stranger or a teacher, a friend of the family, a professional or a family member.
Child Sexual Abuse is a form of abuse where an older person – adolescent or adult – uses a child for sexual stimulation. For example, a child could be coerced into sending sexually explicit photos via Snapchat.
Online Sexual Exploitation is often the end product of grooming or emotional abuse where adults or older adolescents might encourage children to take and share sexual images or videos of themselves.
Emotional or Psychological Abuse. When emotional abuse happens, because it isn’t physical, victims often brush off their experiences as “not real abuse”. Younger victims are in danger of developing emotionally abusive relationships online. These situations are hard to handle as children feel that their abuse is invalid because it is emotional and, therefore, unseen. Gaming platforms and blogs allow users to form relationships with other users and, sometimes, these mark the beginning of a toxic online relationship.
10 Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online
- Use parental filters to block access to unsuitable content.
- Provide practical advice on privacy settings, the use of webcams and what is and isn’t appropriate online. That advice doesn’t have to come from your own mouth either. Try using CBBC. They have some great videos on internet safety and it might be better coming from someone else.
- Teach children how to report online abuse or inappropriate content.
- Switch on ‘safety mode’ on websites like Twitter and YouTube to prevent children from viewing unsuitable content by accident.
- Keep equipment in communal rooms. Putting laptops, computers or games consoles in communal rooms means that you can keep an eye on what they are doing.
- Treat gaming equipment as a danger too. Don’t forget that the majority of games consoles, including hand-held ones, can link to the internet, so treat them like a computer when your child is using them.
- Encourage children to be naturally suspicious of people they don’t know, to never give out personal information online, and to never accept a friend request from someone they don’t know. Explain to your child that sometimes people lie online about who they are.
- Be alert for signs that a child is in danger online. Encourage them to talk to you about what they’re doing and who they’re talking to.
- Report abuse immediately and save evidence for the police to look at.
- Try adding your child if they use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, that way you can keep an eye on them from a distance – but don’t be too offended if they don’t want their mum or dad liking their posts!
Where Can Children Report Online Abuse?
“Children can feel like there is no escape from online abuse – abusers can contact them at any time of the day or night, the abuse can come into safe places like their bedrooms, and images and videos can be stored and shared with other people.” This is why children need to know how to take action.
Make sure they are aware of the following safety features:
- On Facebook, there’s an option to report online abuse when it goes against their community standards.
- The Internet Watch Foundation is an organisation dedicated to reporting child sexual abuse content online.
- To report a post on Instagram click on the ellipsis function – you’ll have the option to report it as spam, a scam, risky, or problematic in other ways.
- On Snapchat you can report abuse, flag underage users, and delete and block users from seeing your story. You can also report issues to email@example.com or on Snapchat.com.
- Tumblr allows you to report hateful content, intellectual property abuse, identity abuse and content that puts others at harm. You can read their community guidelines here.
- 3 Creative Lesson Plans for Teaching Internet Safety in Schools
- How to Explain Internet Safety to Your Child
- Safeguarding Children: Internet Safety Training