We have all received emails with content that shocks us, be that it contains pornographic material or uses provocative images and language. As adults we have the maturity to be able to know when content is inappropriate or indeed sinister. Absolutely understandably children are still developing the skills to be able to differentiate between what is safe and appropriate information and what is not. So, what can you do to help your child to stay safe if they encounter inappropriate material when they are online?
Begin an ongoing conversation about the dangers on social media: Starting early, empower kids with information so they can avoid common digital pitfalls. Be honest and upfront about the problems that cyberbullying, sexting, online predators, oversharing, and identity theft pose to their mental and physical well-being today and in the future. Also, regularly reinforce the message that not everything that they encounter online is as it seems. Encourage your child to both exercise caution and develop a sixth sense so to speak when online. If they get a sense that something is not right with what they see online, encourage them to trust their gut instinct. Younger children can use the Stop Block Tell Rule. When communicating with teenagers, the message while similar in nature, obviously needs to be more age appropriate. Speaking to parents with children of a similar age is one good way to share experiences and learn from each other about how they deal with online safety issues with their teens.
Help children and teens set their privacy settings and follow recommended age guidelines: Social media and the world of technology is constantly evolving, requiring sites to update their privacy settings and terms of agreement regularly. Unfortunately, this can create gaps in our child’s privacy which leaves them vulnerable. Avoid this by making sure our children meet the minimum age requirements and they have enabled secure settings. We want to ensure they aren’t accidentally sharing personal information, addresses, locations frequented, schedules, and contact information. In addition, encourage them to choose usernames and avatars that don’t give away their age or location.
Engage in Active Mediation: It is crucial that your child knows that they can come to you with any concerns they have in relation to content and/or behaviours that they have been exposed to when they are online. At Zeeko we promote the concept of active meditation which essentially means that instead of using punishment you talk openly with your child about what they are experiencing online. If the fear of punishment is removed children will be far more likely to come to you with the good and the bad when it comes to their use of the internet.
Ultimately, make sure that your child knows that they can approach you with concerns they have and that they know they can rely on you to work with then to support them to overcome the challenges that that the online world can regularly pose for them.