Educating young people to be safe online
Being online is an integral part of children and young people’s lives. Social media, online games, websites and apps can be accessed through mobile phones, computers, laptops and tablets – all of which form a part of children and young people’s online world.
While cybersecurity protects devices and networks from harm by third parties, Online Safety protects the people using them from harm by the devices and networks (and therefore third parties) through awareness, education, information and technology.
Online Safety is being aware of the nature of the possible threats that your child could encounter whilst engaging in activity through the internet; these could be security threats, protecting and managing your personal data, online reputation management, and avoiding harmful or illegal content.
It isn’t about scaremongering, it isn’t about criticism and chaos, it’s about focusing on the positive and enriching side of digital life whilst recognising its challenges and how to best approach them.
The following 10 tips are a good starting point for considering online safety:
1. Learn your way around
Most devices have controls to ensure that kids can’t access content you don’t want them to. Make sure your “in-app” purchases are disabled to avoid nasty surprises. Check out the Parent's Technology Guide at the UK Safer Internet Centre for more help.
2. E-Safety on Mobile Phones/Smartphones
As children get older, the focus inevitably shifts from tablets to smaller and more portable mobile devices: phones. The old online safety messages about having your home computer in a communal place become defunct, because phones are literally mobile computers and can do pretty much the same stuff that traditional desktop PCs can. You can use tools like Google Family Link for Android devices, or Screen Time for Apple iOS devices, to set up controls around usage, but it’s just as important, if not more so, to talk to kids about what they should and shouldn’t be doing (see ‘Setting Boundaries’ below).
3. Social Media Platforms
Ofcom’s research also shows that YouTube remains a firm favourite. Children aged 15 are more likely to use YouTube than other on-demand services such as Netflix, or TV channels including the BBC and ITV. TikTok has also grown to join Snapchat and Instagram as one of the top social media platforms used by children. There are checklists for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Roblox and TikTok that you can download from this social media checklists page. The checklists will help parents to understand more about each platform, what information they use, and how to set privacy settings: they’re a parent’s social media survival guide!
4. Setting Boundaries
Internet safety isn’t just about setting up technology in the right way. It’s just as important, if not more so, to get the ‘offline’ setup right: expectations, behaviours, discussions about use. Our advice is to set some ground rules, and ensure children understand them.
5. Screen Time
Agree a time limit or number of games beforehand, to avoid repeated disagreements around how long they can spend online. There is also this ‘Young People and Screentime – A Good Start’ guide available, which provides some tips and checklists to help parents and carers get kids off to a good start using digital devices.
6. Sleep Comes First
It is advisable that the phone stays out of the bedroom to avoid night time interruptions, and having a period of time before bed without phone or tablet use is beneficial too. The blue light emitted from LCD screens has been shown to disrupt sleep by interfering with our natural body rhythms, blocking our bodies from creating a sleep hormone called melatonin.
7. Request Access
You care more about your kid's health and wellbeing than anyone else. That means you need to guide them in the virtual world as well as the real world. If you’re genuinely concerned about them, ask them to allow you access to the phone.
8. Monitoring vs Having a Conversation
It is possible to install software onto devices that monitors online activity, alerts you to inappropriate behaviour, and can block access to certain content. This kind of software is becoming increasingly popular, but while this might sound tempting, it might pose a number of issues around your child’s right to privacy, and could have an impact upon your relationship with them. This 'Parenting through technology' article – covers this subject and raises some interesting points.
The best advice is to talk to your child regularly and openly about behaviour and risk, so that they know they can come to you if something goes wrong. More of this is covered in this ‘It’s good to talk’ article.
9. Whole Home Approach
Consider setting parental controls on your Wi-Fi. You can block access to inappropriate or adult content, and set time limits which may help rein in those excessive Minecraft sessions. The UK Safer Internet Centre 'Parental controls offered by your home internet provider' page is a good place to start.
There are so many exciting games out there, and so many consoles to choose from there is a good chance you might have one in your home. Consider whether your child is mature enough to join an online community, and whether the games they are playing are appropriate. For more advice on this visit www.pegi.info or www.askaboutgames.com.
Useful Sites & Documents
Safer Schools and Communities Team
|Online Safety Newsletter Autumn (For Parents) 2019||1,391 KB|
|Online Safety Newsletter Spring (For Parents) 2019||612 KB|
|Safe Schools & Communities Team site|
But do remember, educating for careful use will be far more effective than banning or removing internet access!
The Thomas Hardye School - Acceptable Use of ICT Facilities Policy
See our Policies page for the latest E-Safety and acceptable Use Policies