Helping your Child to Stay Safe Online this Summer!

After a challenging number of months for everyone in Ireland, let’s hope long sunny days lie ahead and along with the sun another thing that can be guaranteed during the summer months, is that your child will want to spend some of their time using technology. So, here are some tips for what you can do to ensure that your child stays safe online over the summer holidays.

Here at Zeeko we repeatedly say that communication is key! There genuinely is no substitute for face to face, open communication with your child when it comes to many elements of parenting but none more so than internet safety. It is a good idea to have a conversation as early as possible in the summer holidays with your child about you and your child’s expectations about the use of technology. Children can assume that now that school’s out for summer, that they can spend their increased free time online. This expectation will not always be matched by their parent! Also, this year in particular children have probably spent more time than usual during the academic year using tech to keep in touch with their teacher and classmates. Negotiation will be central to what is agreed between you and your child about how the use of technology will be managed over the summer months. The following areas may be of help to you in supporting your child to stay safe online and achieving that all elusive balance.

Screentime: Remind your child of the importance of having a balance when it comes to the amount of time that they are spending online. At Zeeko we have pioneered the 5:1 Rule when it comes to screentime. This essentially means that for every hour that is spent on screens this should be balanced with 5 hours of ‘real world’ activities, preferably activities that involve some physical exercise. Also, it’s important that your child, switches off any screen at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light omitted by screens can affect the levels of melatonin in the brain which can affect things like concentration the following day. The temptation is always there, particularly during the holidays, to spend an increased amount of time on screens.

The Stop Block Tell Rule: It can be genuinely distressing for young children in particular, to encounter something age inappropriate or witness others being treated badly when they are online. Talk to your child about the importance of using the Stop, Block, Tell Rule if they do encounter something that upsets them. Stop what they are doing, block the person and/or conversation that has upset them, and finally tell a trusted adult what they have experienced. Talking about what has upset them will definitely make it less frightening. Let your child know that it is ok for them to talk about what they are experiencing when they are online. Having regular open conversations as a family about the internet is a great foundation for your child to learn that the digital world can be a great experience, but that they need to remember to stay safe.

Online Etiquette: Often the excitement of messaging, gaming, video and photo sharing can lead to children of a range of ages, not being as cautious as they would usually be when they are offline. Talk with your child about the importance of treating people the same when they are online as they would when they are not. Also remind them of the T-Shirt Rule, which is a great way of reinforcing the fact that what is shared online cannot be easily deleted or removed – don’t post anything that you wouldn’t be happy to wear on the front of a t-shirt! This certainly makes children and adults think twice about what they post online.

As we know from our work with primary and secondary schools over recent years, the internet is a fantastic resource, but children do need support and guidance to learn how to safely navigate the online world, regardless of the time of year!