Safer Internet Day 2014

11th February 2014 is Safer Internet day and this year’s theme is ‘let’s create a better internet together.’ It is important that parents and school staff are engaged and well-informed in this area to ensure their children can get the most out of the internet.

The internet is an amazing resource which enables children and young people to connect, communicate and be creative in a number of different ways, on a range of devices. However, the internet is always changing, and being able to keep up to date with your children’s use of technology can be a challenge. You may sometimes feel that your children have better technical skills than you do, however children and young people still need advice and protection when it comes to managing their lives online and using the internet positively and safely. On this webpage, we hope to give you an overview of some of the risks your child may encounter whilst online. This will be followed by some great advice to get you thinking about how you can support your child to get the most out of the internet. We have grouped potential online risks into 4 categories.

Children need to be aware of the impact that their online activity can have on both themselves and other people, and the digital footprint that they create on the internet. It’s easy to feel anonymous online and it’s important that children are aware of who is able to view, and potentially share, the information that they may have posted.

When using the internet, it’s important to keep personal information safe and not share it with strangers. Discuss with your child the importance of reporting inappropriate conversations, messages, images and behaviours and how this can be done.

Some online content is not suitable for children and may be hurtful or harmful. This content could be accessed and viewed via social networks, online games, blogs and websites. It’s important for children to consider the reliability of online material and be aware that it might not be true or written with a bias.

There can be legal consequences for using or downloading copyrighted content, without seeking the author’s permission. To find out more about the law and downloading film, music and television have a look at Childnet’s guide to downloading (on parent information sheet).

It is important for children to realise that new friends made online may not be who they say they are and that once a friend is added to an online account, you may be sharing your personal information with them. Regularly reviewing friends lists and removing unwanted contacts is a useful step.

Privacy settings online may also allow you to customise the information that each friend is able to access, on your parent information sheet you can find out how to do this on various services. If you have concerns that your child is, or has been, the subject of inappropriate sexual contact or approach by another person, it’s vital that you report it to the police via the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (on parent information sheet).

If your child is the victim of cyberbullying, this can also be reported online and offline. Reinforce with your child the importance of telling a trusted adult if someone is bullying them or making them feel uncomfortable, or if one of their friends is being bullied online.

Young people’s privacy and enjoyment online can sometimes be affected by advertising and marketing schemes, which can also mean inadvertently spending money online, for example within applications. Encourage your children to keep their personal information private, you could suggest using a family email address when filling in online forms, this will mean they will avoid being inundated with spam and junk email.

Learn how to block pop ups, most web browsers have these now turned on as default but double check on the browser you and family use. Have you heard about recent news stories of children running up huge bills as a result of buying coins or gems in game? To avoid this happening especially with younger children learn to turn off in-app purchasing on devices.

If you are unsure how to do this you can visit the UK Safer Internet Centre’s Parent’s Guide to Technology (on parent information sheet).

Having spoken about the possible risks it is important to remember that the internet is a really positive tool that makes our lives much easier. It can be an intimidating world and knowing where to start can be daunting so Childnet have put together a checklist of simple steps for you to take to help support your child online.

  • There are real advantages in maintaining an open dialogue with your child about their internet use, encourage them to talk to you about their time online; for example who they’re talking to, what services they are using, and any issues that they may be experiencing.
  • Create a family agreement to establish your children’s boundaries, and your expectations, when on the internet. Give your child strategies to deal with any online content that they are not comfortable with – such as turning off the screen, telling an adult they trust and using online reporting facilities.
  • Consider using filtering software to block unwanted content. In addition to filtering, remember that discussion with your child, and involvement in their internet use, are both effective ways to educate them about the internet.
  • Encourage your children to ‘think before you post.’ Online actions can impact not only yourself but the lives of others. Content posted privately online can be publicly shared by others, and may remain online forever.
  • Understand the law. Some online behaviour may break the law, for example when downloading or sharing content with others. Be able to recommend legal services.
  • Familiarise yourself with the privacy settings and reporting features available on popular sites and services.
  • If your child is being bullied online, save all available evidence and know where to report the incident, for example to the school, service provider, or the police if the law has been broken.
  • Familiarise yourself with the age ratings for games and apps which can help to indicate the level and suitability of the content. Also see if online reviews are available from other parents as these may be helpful.
  • Encourage your children to protect their personal information, and create strong passwords for every account.

Thank you for reading to stay up to date and to find out more you can use social media to get in touch with Childnet or email them directly.