Tips for Teaching Children How to Stay Safe Online
The days of watching my son’s every move to keep him safe as a young child are over, but other safety measures are now important.
I’m one of the (many) parents who’ve lost their child to the world of gaming, so teaching children how to stay safe online is vital.
Whilst the internet is full of great learning, play and socialising opportunities for young people, it also comes with risks.
Why is it Important to Learn How to Stay Safe Online?
Most children are online nowadays, whether it’s via phones, tablets, gaming consoles or even TV apps.
Many devices enable them to be online unsupervised, which can mean access to unsafe sites, videos and even people.
This can include internet users or software that can steal personal information to use fraudulently.
As well as internet crime, there’s also the risks of abuse.
A 2021 study by the Office for National Statistics found nearly a third of children have accepted a friend request from someone they don’t know.
It stated 1 in 10 aged 13-15 years reported receiving a sexual message and 1 in 100 of the young people actually sent them.
Teaching children how to stay safe online helps parents know their child is protected and less at risk when using their devices.
How to Stay Safe Online
Here are some tips on how to stay safe online practically from things like crime, and also emotionally, to reduce bullying, grooming and coercion.
If you have other ideas, please add them to the comments below.
Teach Yourself the Basics
We can only teach what we actually know.
Are you tech savvy? If not, do your research and learn how to use the devices that your children use.
By becoming confident with the devices and software, we know how to keep our kids safe and are able to show them too.
Install Antivirus Software
Antivirus software protects the device against viruses, spyware, malware, Trojans, phishing attacks and other cybercriminal activities.
There are many options of antivirus for Windows and other operating systems available, including free basic packages.
The level of antivirus protection is higher for paid packages, so it’s worth comparing options to see which offer the security you want.
Bitdefender Antivirus, for example, offers protection that keeps your photos, videos and documents safe from all known and emerging cyber threats. They also offer real-time data protection, safe online banking using a unique browser to prevent fraud and anti-phishing.
Their social network protection means children can be protected if they open spam links by hacked friends’ accounts too.
Explain to your child how their device can get online attacks and viruses so it’s important to keep checking it.
For younger kids, you can liken it to how we see doctors to check we are healthy, and our computers need us to be their doctors sometimes.
Teaching children to regularly scan their devices for viruses is a good, lifelong habit to create, so go through the steps with them.
Usually a scan is quite easy to set up, and it can be scheduled to happen weekly or even daily automatically.
If yours can do this, children can be taught instead to show you their device if they receive a virus notification so it can be resolved straight away.
Use a VPN
As well as using paid or free antivirus options mentioned above, setting up a VPN for your family to use can be useful.
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, which protects your internet connection and privacy online.
They protect your personal data while you are connected to unsecure public networks away from home on your devices.
There are various parent controls that can be installed on devices, within apps and games.
This includes controls on your Wi-Fi hub to set usage time limits and block things inappropriate websites, images and in-app purchases.
Most Wi-Fi services offer these controls for free, so it’s worth checking with your provider.
Set Realistic Boundaries
As our children get older, we want to help them learn and develop independent skills.
To do this, it involves allowing them to explore online alone, but with boundaries to keep them safe.
Discuss how information can be shared online to explain the importance of only giving out safe information that cannot be used without permission.
Teach them not to give out their personal information (or anyone else’s) when talking to people online.
Explain the importance of not filling in forms with contact details without checking with you first, as some sites can ask for details to access free skins, songs or extras for games, which then leads to spam calls, emails and letters.
Ensure you set rules about online time limits and in-app purchases, to avoid overuse, overspending and giving out private details.
Keep Checking In
Keep talks about online safety a regular conversation.
This reminds them of things they should do to stay safe, which are easy to forget.
Regular conversations about it offers space for questions to learn more as new things arise for them, and it helps us learn about what they’re doing online.
It also gives them a space to share any worries they have so they can be tackled quickly.
Don’t Blame the Child
It’s important that when they disclose something has happened online, that they are listened to and not blamed.
Sometimes they can be exposed to content they didn’t even attempt to search for, so it’s not their fault.
Instead, focus on hearing how it felt for them and seeing if they need any support.
Find ways to discuss how they can stay safe in the future to prevent it happening again.
Follow By Example
Role modelling is a great way to teach children how to stay safe online.
Be aware of your own usage and talk to them about how you keep yourself safe online.
Learn about the Latest Online Trends
Keep up to date with the latest apps, online games and social media in order to understand risks they each bring.
This enables you to help your child learn how to stay safe online using each one.
They will also be impressed that their parents know what’s popular and it will give you more areas to talk and connect with them about.
For other advice about online safety, try these places:
Barnardos have some great tips for teaching children how to keep safe online.
The Child Exploitation Online Protection command have animations for younger children about cyber security, social media and inappropriate messages.
This is a sponsored post. All opinions are honest and my own, and all research has been credited within the post.