It’s unbelievable that the summer is coming to a close and schools starts for the majority of students over the next week or so. We hope you have had a great summer and our team look forward to meeting students, teachers and parents in schools all over Ireland during the course of the coming academic year.

The return to school means a return to routine and is also a great opportunity to revisit a conversation about the use of technology and staying safe online. At Zeeko we promote and endorse the concept of open communication when it comes to online safety. It’s really the best way of starting and maintaining a conversation about staying safe online. Talk to your family about what things may need to change when it comes to time spent online and the use of digital devices now that school has returned. Remind your child of the importance of letting you know about anything they see when they are online that makes them feel uncomfortable. The Stop, Block, Tell Rule is a very user friendly and age appropriate way of empowering children to do something themselves in the immediate moment of encountering something that is not ok when they are online.

This is also a great time of year to create for the first time or indeed, revisit the idea of a digital contract for your family. A digital contract is essentially a way for you to outline in writing the expectations for the entire family, adults and children alike, around the use of technology. Everything from the amount of time to be spent online, screentime and behaviour when using messaging apps can be included in the contract. This can be particularly helpful when it comes to communicating with teenagers. The element of negotiation and compromise needed when creating a digital contract and the inclusive nature of creating the contract will appeal! Once the content of the contract has been agreed, it can be signed by all the family and placed in a prominent location in a communal space. It can be very helpful to regularly review the contract, checking how everyone feels it is working and making changes as appropriate. It’s certainly something worth considering at an opportune time like the start of a new school year.

When we meet parents and teachers at our online wellbeing seminars throughout the country, we regularly here that managing screentime is an ongoing challenge particularly after a break in routine like the school holidays. Remind your child of the 5:1 Rule, which we have pioneered at Zeeko. For every 1 hour spent on a screen this should be balanced with 5 hours of what is termed ‘real world’ activity. Essentially activities that don’t involve screens and promote physical activity.

The return to the school routine can be a challenging time for all the family. Having the skills to stay safe online is crucial, regardless of the time of year and is a set of skills that will stand to everyone in the family, especially children.