While children and teenagers are often far more tech savvy than us parents, their lack of life experience makes them vulnerable. One in eight 12-15 year olds experiences cyber bullying, and a growing number are being groomed online.
Check parental controls
Digital devices usually come with parental controls that you can enable. Popular children’s online games, such as Roblox, also tend to give parents a choice of settings. You can prevent your child from accessing certain features, for example. You may want to adjust the settings so that your child can’t chat to strangers, and regularly check your child’s list of friends to make sure they haven’t added people they don’t know in real life.
Talk to your child
Ask your child to show you what they do when they’re playing their favourite digital games. You might also want to set up your own account, so you can explore a game to see whether there’s anything that concerns you.
Make sure your child understands that they should never send photos to people they meet online, or give out personal details, such as their real name, email address or school name. Talk to your child about how easy it is for people to lie when they’re online.
Above all, make sure your child knows that they can come to you if they experience anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, without you getting cross.
Most social media sites only allow accounts to be set up by people aged 13 and up. However, they don’t require proof of age, so it’s down to parents to enforce the rules. Messaging apps and social media are useful for keeping in touch with friends but can be exploited by bullies and predators. Again, talk to your child about how to stay safe. You might want to help your teen set up their privacy controls and discuss what they should do if they’re trolled or contacted by someone they don’t know.
Most tablets allow you to set a limit for how many hours they can be used for each day. It’s more difficult to set time limits for older children, however, who may need to use laptops or tablets to do their homework. At the very least, you may want to agree times that your child isn’t allowed to use devices, such as meal times, the hour before bedtime and so on. Try to lead by example. If you’re constantly scrolling through social media feeds, it’s going to be hard to convince your child not to do the same.
For guidance on keeping children safe online, check out www.net-aware.org.uk and www.saferinternet.org.uk.
www.internetmatters.org also has a wealth of useful information, including what to do if your child is bullied online.
If you’re not sure how to set up parental controls, or want advice on privacy settings or social media, call the O2/NSPCC’s online safety advice line on 0808 8005002.