Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Your kids may be internet savvy, but don't turn a blind eye to your child's online safety! We are in a time, and space, where children are accessing the internet in all facets of their life - leisure, school and online tutoring, and you aren't always there to monitor it.
Within Australia, 1 in 4 children between the ages of 11-16 years connect with people they first met online, and friendships are developing at a faster rate than they do in person. As they advance in their understanding of technology, and engage with people online, through social media and online learning platforms, many parents are grappling with how to ensure their children's safety. We have listed some of the best ways ensure they are safe below:
Have the tricky conversations
If your child is using the internet, with or without you, then conversations need to be had about the potential risks they may face online. The level of conversation you have will vary depending on the age of your child, but each discussion should include you:
Encouraging your child to come to you if they are unsure of what they are seeing or if someone or something is scaring them online.
Discussing the importance of not revealing any personal information, never agreeing to meet in person with someone online, and never trade pictures.
Tell your child to stay away from websites that aren't meant for children or teenagers.
Discussing how unknown links are a potential risk and not to open them.
Discuss with them what to do if they do see something bad.
Get to know the technology
Regardless of how much technology interests you, as a parent it's essential that you take the time to become familiar with the devices, social media and programs your child is using or is likely to use in the future. Having a level of knowledge about technology enables you to manage their usage better and understand the risks associated with them.
Use online resources as a family by having game sessions together, talking about their favourite websites and games, and talk about what they have been doing online.
Have rules and expectations around internet usage
Rules are never fun, but if you engage the whole family in making the rules around online usage and safety, it is more likely to encourage them to comply. Some rules could include:
Asking permission to use chat features in games
No sharing of photos of yourself
Parents to have all login details
Put a time limit on how much time can be spent online in a day
Have access to all their login details
Having access to your child's login details to any programs, accounts or games they use should be non-negotiable. While there is always the risk they will set up secret accounts, keeping the conversation open and having rules in place that they have helped create should deter any secret-keeping.
If your child is younger, it would be expected that you are setting up all accounts your child is using and being the keeper of the login details.
Be present during online usage
While it is reasonable to expect that your teenager won't want you hovering when they are using the internet, it's recommended you are present when you can be and continuing to keep the lines of communication open. It is particularly important for you to be close by when your child is participating in an online tutoring session, in case the tutor needs to talk to you.
If your child is younger, it is suggested that you sit down with them and spend time engaging in their online usage.
Watch for warning signs
You may not attribute your child's change in behaviour with cyberbullying, being groomed online or having been exposed to something scary online. It is easy to assume that something might be happening at school or they are just getting older. If your child is using technology and is online, watch for these warning signs that something isn't right:
Secrecy about online activity
Changes in mood or behaviour
Sudden withdrawal from technology and other things they enjoy
Your child is worried about attending school
For further information on the different type of issues your child may face online, see the Australian Government Safety Guide for Parents.
Online tutoring companies are vigilant in how they maintain the safety of their students and have measures in place to protect them. Additionally, while online tutors go through the same process that a face-to-face tutor does to be able to teach, it's still essential to go through some steps to safeguard your child:
As the parent, you should always be the one to organise the tutoring sessions, ensuring the company is reputable and staff have a working with children check.
Be there at the beginning and end of each session, to confirm your child is doing the session and not accessing something else online.
At each session, establish whether the tutor is the allocated person for your child. If it is not your usual tutor and you haven't been informed of any changes, do not proceed with the session.
In all the measures that you take to ensure your child's online safety, don't demand information from your child, but keep the conversation open about their online usage and engage in it with them.