One of the most striking results from our recent Zeeko All Ireland Trend Report was the percentage of children who said that they had spoken to, or played against a stranger online: 54% of 6th class pupils, 46% of 5th class pupils and 42% of 4th class pupils have had contact with a stranger online. These are certainly stark statistics and rightly cause concern to both parents and teachers. The growth in online gaming and also the use of such a wide range of digital devices by children has undoubtedly increased the chances of them interacting with people they don’t know when they are online.

Consistently, when we talk to parents at our parent seminars they say that their children are becoming increasingly skilled and knowledgeable about using apps, online games, social network sites and websites. This can lead to parents having a sense of helplessness when it comes to parenting online. Children may be more efficient users of the internet but they do not have the maturity to make informed decisions about how to behave online.

At Zeeko we have developed the concept of a Chatbudi in order to get children to actively mediate with a trusted adult. This essentially means that your child will feel comfortable to be able to talk to a trusted adult about what they are experiencing on their digital journey. They will be able to be open and honest without fear of a negative consequence.  We recommend that a parent should be their child’s Chatbudi. However, this is not always possible. As an alternative a Chatbudi could be an adult who the child trusts, for example an older brother or sister; an aunt or uncle; a teacher, or a grandparent.

We know from our research carried out with primary schools that children use a large number of different apps, games, social network sites and websites. In one school surveyed with 245 pupils, the children were using 145 different apps, online games, social network sites and websites. Parents by definition have limited free time. It would be very difficult for any person to have a full understanding of all the different apps, online games, social network sites and websites that children use. It is important to know that it is not necessary to be a tech whiz to be a Chatbudi.

Ensuring that your child knows that they can confide in you, safe in the knowledge that there will not be a negative consequence for what they are telling you about their online experience is a great starting point.

You may also like to read our recent blog on Stranger Danger which offers more specific advice on how to help equip your child with skills that can help them to stay safe online.

The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide offers more detailed advice on keeping your child safe online. If you would like to buy a copy of the book you can do so here.

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