With all the conversations that you need to have with your children in the course of a week it can be a challenge to fit in the topic of staying safe online! During the workshops we deliver in primary and secondary schools throughout the country we regularly hear from children of all ages about the types of conversations they home about staying safe online. Children as young as seven are conscious of their use of the internet in the sense of how much screentime they are allowed or what games they like to play online. It can be more of a challenge to keep communication going with teenagers. They are struggling to shape their own identity and have a degree of independence. Teenagers can often feel it is best to keep what they are doing online a secret from the adults around them and can see this secrecy as a badge of honour among their friends. Keeping the conversation going with children regardless of their age is most certainly a challenge for parents. So what can you do to have a continual and evolving conversation with your child about staying safe online?
At Zeeko we encourage and promote the concept of open communication and see it as a crucial component to keeping kids safe online. Essentially open communication means letting your child know that it is ok to talk to you about what they are experiencing when they are online. The good and the bad. The reality is that there is a fun and educational side to the internet, but there is also a more sinister side too. Acknowledging this is a good way to start a conversation about what your child is currently doing when they are online. Knowing that you are familiar with the different aspects of their online life will help your child to be real with you about their online experiences. There is a school of thought that would advocate that confiscation or a complete clamp down on allowing access to digital devices and apps. However, we have found that this just leads to children trying to access the internet in example, friends’ houses or in areas where open wifi is available. Essentially it pushes use of the internet underground. As a parent you will have little or no control of this and it may also impact negatively on your relationship with your child, in relation to communication.
It is far more effective to build in regular opportunities to have conversations about what your child is doing when they are online. That can happen at times like dinner or during the course of the weekend when there are less demands on everyone’s time. There are regularly stories in the media about topics like new apps or the experiences of young people online and these stories, even in a watered-down version that are age appropriate, which can be a good conversation starter.
The reality is that children of all ages are surrounded by technology and talk of the online world. It is important that they feel safe in confiding in a trusted adult about what they are experiencing when they are online. Having open and honest conversations with them is a great way to help keep them safe!