Staying Safe Online: E-Safety Tips for Children and Parents

Education News, Family Time, Tips for Parents
Mentor Education

Children face different pressures today than they did just ten years ago – something we spend a lot of time thinking about at London Home Tutors. One particular consideration for all educators, parents and carers concerns e-safety and how we can keep young people safe in the fast-paced, ever-changing environment of the online world.

The transition from primary school to secondary school can be a worrying time generally – not least when it comes to e-safety. Children can often feel like small fish in a big pond, navigating a much bigger campus and suddenly being surrounded by students who look much older than them. The pressure to make new friends quickly is intense; and these friendships can take place online as well as offline, which is a new consideration for parents who grew up in a different era. Childnet International estimates that on the first day of senior school a child may receive around 200 Instagram and Snapchat friend requests. As such, it should not be a surprise if your child comes home from school after their first day and is unable to relax; instead, they might be glued to their phone all evening, sifting through all these new potential connections and – possibly – worrying about what it all might mean.  

Your child won’t want to alienate anyone, so though it might be tempting to take the mobile device away for the evening, avoid this. Instead, familiarise yourself with the most popular platforms by creating an account together with your son or daughter, or simply one for yourself. Most apps stipulate a minimum user age of 13, but there are ways around this – and there are some services that don’t enforce a minimum age.

E-Safety: What Can I Do?

Striking a balance between letting your child take part in what is – in the modern era – an important part of adolescent friendship and keeping them safe online is hard; but there are things you can do to protect them. Below are some of our top tips:

  1. Job number one is to keep communication flowing: so resist the urge to lock up the phone or ban snapchat and Instagram. This will only convince your child that they can’t tell you about issues they are having online in case they are penalised.
  2. Instead, keep lines of communication open. Encourage them to be honest about their internet use by asking them who they’re talking to, what platforms they’re enjoying (and which ones they aren’t), as well as any issues that they may be experiencing.
  3. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use filters to block out any unwanted content. There is software that can be very helpful for making the internet a safer place for your child. That said, even utilising filtering software could be an opportunity to encourage open dialogue with your son or daughter, so do talk to them about your plans and continue to educate them about the internet. Filtering is not a ‘fix all’ approach.
  4. Don’t avoid the topic of undesirable content or encounters in the hopes your child might never come across them. Instead, arm them with strategies for coping with anything they aren’t comfortable with. Turning off the screen or using the platform’s reporting function are helpful steps they could take.
  5. With that in mind, it’d be helpful if you were fully apprised of all the relevant online reporting functions so that you could assist your child if necessary or provide in-depth advice.
  6. Cyberbullying is a frightening prospect for many parents or carers, but it’s increasingly common. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help. First, educate your child on the importance of thinking before they post. Not only could something they post be hurtful to someone else, but even private content could be shared publicly – meaning that their actions online could harm them later in life. Next, if you’re concerned that your child may be the victim of cyberbullying, save all the evidence and ensure that you know where to report the incident (to the school, the platform on which the abuse occurred, or to the police if the law has been broken).
  7. Educate your child on the importance of safeguarding personal information online. Persuade them towards using nicknames instead of their full names, and help them devise strong, secure passwords for all their accounts.
  8. Work as a family. Create a family email address that can be used to sign up to new websites, games, or certain apps – this will allow you to monitor what is being accessed as well as keeping a close eye on any paid-for content (there are many stories about a parent’s card being used unknowingly to rack up large gaming debts!). Draw up a family agreement that will set boundaries around internet use: why each person in the family likes to use the internet; what their favourite sites are; what sort of behaviour is acceptable; and what will happen if the agreement isn’t adhered to. Planning out your document together will help get everyone feel involved and committed to the process, and can be a great way to get to know more about your child’s internet use as well as establishing a level of expectation around e-safety.

Do you have any e-safety tips you’d like to share? Hop on over to our Facebook and Twitter pages and join the discussion; don’t forget to follow us, too, so you can stay up to date with all our news!

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