You might have enabled parental controls and switched on privacy settings, but is that enough to ensure your child stays safe online?
More often than not, applying content filters is a very small part of online safety. Showing your child how to be confident and resilient online is just as important.
Although building confidence is a lifelong process, you can help to start it as your child takes their first steps into the online world. Here are a few tips:
Have an open conversation about being online
Take an interest in your child’s online activities. This involves more than just monitoring the sites or apps they use or setting rules.
It also means chatting with your child about the online world on a regular basis. Ask them what they enjoy using online, and if there is anything that they don’t like about it.
Research suggests that children who have restrictive parents or carers are generally less resilient than their peers, so strict rules might have the unintended effect of undermining your child’s online confidence.
However, children still need boundaries that they understand in order to operate within them – be clear about what’s allowed, what isn’t allowed and why this is the case.
Regularly remind them that you are there for them whenever they need your help with something online. Knowing that they have your support can also help to boost your child’s confidence when they use the Internet.
Support your child as they explore the Internet
Encouraging your child to use the Internet to research their interests or connect safely with friends and family can also help to build their online confidence.
Be clear when you tell them that using the Internet isn’t always bad, and that you support them seeking out new opportunities to learn and communicate with people they know.
If your child is nervous about going online, find activities and games you can play together.
Help them understand the bigger picture
Your child or teen might struggle with their self-esteem online when they see their friends or influencers posting the seemingly ‘perfect’ photo.
Remind them that most images and videos we see can be heavily edited – yes, even those from their peers!
Ask them about how they feel when they see those images, and let them know that they often don’t reflect reality. For example, the influencer who posts bright, smiling selfies every day might not always be that happy.
Teaching your child to recognise that social media shouldn’t define how they should look or dress, is crucial to developing confidence and resilience online.
Give them tools for when things go wrong
Familiarise yourself with reporting tools for each of the apps, platforms and sites your child uses. Then, show your child how to use them.
Ask your child to suggest situations where reporting something or blocking another user would be appropriate. Would it be right to report a friend for swearing accidentally during an online game? Maybe not. Is it wise to block a stranger who is acting too friendly or asking for personal information? Yes.
Showing them how to respond in difficult situations online is a great way to empower your child.
Praise them when they do things well
Although agreeing on ground rules for using the Internet is important for families, it’s also important to reward good behaviour online.
If you see your child making sensible decisions online, such as being careful about who they talk to or taking regular breaks, commend them for it. This will not only encourage them to make smart choices, it will also give them a greater sense of control online.