Parenting in the Digital Age doesn’t need to be overwhelming. It isn’t so different to parenting in the offline world. Use the WWW approach and make sure you know:
WHO your child is talking to online
WHAT they’re doing online, and
WHERE they’re going online
In the offline world, you want to know who your children are talking to and who they might be contacted by. It’s even more important online where people may not always be who they seem, and advice received online can seem persuasive even when it’s bad advice.
There are plenty of things you can do to help your children manage WHO they interact with online:
Ask your children if they have online friends that they don’t know offline
Have a look to see how many friends they have on Facebook
Create an avatar so you can play with them on sites like Moshi and Club Penguin
In response to online commercial activity you can:
Discuss and make some rules about things like in-app purchases
Report adverts that worry you or your children
Encourage your children to use their correct date of birth, so any advertising they receive is age-appropriate
Text STOP to services that are sending unsolicited texts to your child
Make some rules. Here are some suggestions:
Understand that people you ‘friend’ online are real people
You can (or can’t) play online games with strangers
You can’t meet an online friend offline for the first time without an adult present
You can (or can’t) sign up for alerts, game cheats, newsletters
You can (or can’t) use anonymous flirting sites and apps
No naked photos, ever
If your child experiences aggressive behaviour:
Reassure your child that you have heard and understood their worries and will take appropriate action
Talk to your child’s school for support and advice
Know when to step in and take action yourself
It’s important to tackle sexual content online too, so:
Talk to your children about issues like flirting online and sharing photos
Ask about their online friends, just as you would offline – where did they meet and what do they talk about?
Agree family rules about meeting people online
Make sure your children know what to do if they have a worrying experience
Parents know children push the boundaries in the real world. Online is just the same. They can be led into doing things ‘for a laugh’ or because of peer pressure – so you’ll want to keep yourself informed
Find out WHAT your children do online – do they share pictures of themselves, are they always kind to other people online, do they ‘hack’ their friends’ accounts or post comments on YouTube?
Children shop online, just like adults, but they may find it harder to spot a scam. They might not know that it’s illegal to download some things, like films and music from pirate sites. They might buy things that would be age-restricted in the offline world, like alcohol or knives.
You can set some rules about WHAT happens online. Here are some to think about:
You can (or can’t) shop online. Decide about movies, games, apps and think about setting a monthly limit or getting receipts sent to you
Tell your child never to share a naked image of themselves or someone else
Encourage your child not to have an argument online – if they have something to say, tell them to say it face to face
Explain about illegal content and make a family rule
Here are some other things you can do and discuss with your children:
Talk to your children about what they are doing online and try to be as clear and consistent as you can about what’s acceptable and what isn’t
Make sure your child understands how to manage friendships online
Ask about the content of messages your child sees and messages they post
Set clear boundaries for what is and isn’t acceptable
Learn about ‘trolling’ and other bad online behaviour
Talk to your children about the sites they use, especially those that encourage public comment and discussion like Twitter and YouTube
Make sure your children understand the possible consequences of sharing inappropriate images – however innocent their intentions
Make sure they know they can talk to you if they find themselves pressured into behaviour they feel uncomfortable with
Think about whether placing restrictions on your child’s devices is appropriate in view of their age and maturity
Make sure your children know that sharing sexual images of children is illegal
There are places you wouldn’t like your children to go in the offline world. The betting shop, an ‘adult’ cinema or nightclub. There are similar risks online.
As well as talking to your children about where they go online, you need to think about some rules and make some decisions:
Think about whether you’re going to use monitoring software
Tell your children what the house rule is about pornography
A ‘whitelist’ (allowed websites) or ‘blacklist’ (blocked websites) may be appropriate at different ages
Make some decisions about age-appropriate filtering and blocking tools
There are also some things you should be aware of, discuss and find out about:
Find out which sites your children are visiting – sit down with them and go through their browsing history together
Recognise that parental controls on a device are not a complete solution
Check terms and conditions and privacy info on websites
Try to stay on top of who is collecting your child’s personal data and be aware of what they can do with it
Talk to your child about the sorts of things they may see online and encourage them to talk about anything they see that upsets them
Encourage them to report content that is hateful or violent
Reassure them if they have been upset or affected by anything they have seen
Be prepared to have open and frank conversations with your children about sex
Talk with other parents about the rules and boundaries they set
Recognise that children are curious about sex and may search for information and images
Some sexual content that your children see may be disturbing - reassure them that what they’ve seen doesn’t necessarily reflect real life sexual experiences
Encourage them to report things that are harmful or potentially illegal
Unfortunately not the ones with chocolate chips.
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