Internet Safety, “the birds, the bees and the broadband”
Like most parents, I assumed that my children had a basic knowledge of internet safety.
After having a brief chat with them, I decided there was some good understanding but also many gaps in how to be safe online. I decided the best way to improve their knowledge of internet safety, was through asking them to help me write a post on the dangers for kids who use the internet.
Are you the parent of a child who uses the internet? If you are, have you had the cyber safety talk with your child? If you haven’t, then why not? It’s a great help for your children to use the internet for school projects or to chat with their friends without going out late at night. It is important to remember that the internet can still be a danger to children and teenagers.
OK, so you’ve decided to have “the chat” about being safe online. The next step is how to bring up the topic, without your children becoming defensive or dismissive. The good news is that you do have a number of ways, but the simplest is often the best. Just go for it.
When you discuss internet safety with your teenager, try to choose a good time to have the chat. If you start lecturing right away about:
“Your teenager’s internet use… the perils of surfing the web… Predators lurking in the communities online”.
The likelihood is that after a disagreement with your teenager, you’ll create tensions which make the discussion more challenging. Maybe, your teenager will switch off if only to make a point of not listening or to purposely cross you.
Another option that you have is to wait until your child gets off the computer, tablet or smart phone.
When they walk away, ask them if they know about how to be safe online and the dangers on the internet.
They may think you’re talking about Spyware, this is ok and builds common ground and take the conversation forwards from there. Just appreciate that trying to talk to them when they are already online can be as unpleasant as pulling out your own teeth. I would advise better timing.
Another approach that may be worthwhile is asking your child to help with some tasks around the house “I know this too can be a task in its own right!”. Whilst they are in the midst of loading the dishwasher or putting clothes away. Stopping them for a break to talk about internet safety may be a better alternative for them than completing their task “It’s worth a try!”.
When discussing internet safety with your teenager, it is important to not assume that your child already knows. Even if you’re stopped and told they know all this information already, don’t stop. Restate your points clearly and establish any internet rules you want your child to follow. Remember, many teenagers think they know more than you about safety and the internet. Many don’t! For example, your child may know that there are adults pretending to be children on the internet, but do they also know that pictures of them smoking or drinking underage could get them in trouble with school or even arrested, no matter how “awesome,” they look on a Facebook page?
Speaking of Facebook, it is important to know what you should talk to your child about. Since many teenagers use Facebook and other similar social networking websites, they should be discussed and also let them know that they can trust you and talk to you about anything not nice that is being said about them online. Not all the dangers are from strangers, many evils in the world are from people your children know online and the hate posts that they receive. If the tone of posts turns sexual or uncomfortable in nature or if they receive a private message from someone who makes them feel uncomfortable. They should let you know immediately.
If you have boys in the ages of 8 to 14 years old, most likely you have heard of Minecraft. Minecraft is a computer game where you get dropped into a world where there are creepers and monsters. You can play and chat with multiple people together on your own server or on someone else’s server. The biggest thing with any game is to talk with your kids regularly about who is communicating with. It can be good to sit with them while they are gaming so you can see how they communicate and treat others in the virtual world. Your kids may even invite you to join them online.
As you can see, there are a number of different ways that you can go about discussing internet safety with your children. Remember to do so, however, before it is too late. Any child who uses the internet should be well aware of the threats that lurk.
As a parent and an instructor at West Coast Krav Maga in Preston and Blackpool. I’ve found the following posts helpful with talking to my own children about internet safety: