Online activities and social media are an integral part of the lives of children and teenagers.
And, once they know how to stay safe, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
However, your child needs your support to learn how to avoid the risks and pitfalls that may come with using the Internet.
Here are a few tips for teaching your child how to make good decisions online.
Set a good example
Your child looks to you for guidance on how to behave, even if they don’t always like to admit it.
Keep this in mind when you use your own devices. Ask yourself:
- Are you scrolling too much on Facebook or Instagram?
- Are you distracted or mentally affected by what you see on social media?
- Are you always respectful online?
- How could this behaviour influence your child?
Show your child what responsible online activities look like by making sensible choices in your own life.
Help them understand the importance of privacy
Explain to your child that switching on privacy settings and not ‘friending’ strangers is just one part of staying safe online.
Remind them that other seemingly small actions, like providing your email address to get free Wi-Fi or keeping location services on, can endanger their privacy too.
Ask them to think critically before sharing any kind of information, and to reflect on how the information could be used in the future.
It’s useful for you and your child to agree on a set of ground rules for going online, including asking your permission for downloading apps or programmes that require disclosing private information.
Encourage them to think before they post
The world of social media is immediate, and it just takes a few seconds to post something you might regret later.
It could be a slightly embarrassing post or a bad joke. Or, it could be something more serious, like an intimate photo, a message intended to bully someone else, etc.
Remind your child that once something is online, it’s there forever. Even when it is deleted, it can be screenshotted or cached, and could become searchable.
The TEC tool can help children make decisions in difficult situations, including when sharing online:
Think about all the options you have. What can you do?
Evaluate the options. What will happen after choosing each of these options?
Choose the best outcome for yourself and everyone involved.
Another good question for your child is: “What would granny say if she saw this?”
Don’t trust anyone with personal information
You have probably already told your child not to ‘friend’ anyone they don’t know. However, they shouldn’t always trust people they know either, especially if they ask them to do something they don’t feel comfortable about.
Young people might feel pressured into sharing intimate photos or their passwords when asked by a friend or romantic partner. Giving that information might be seen as a way of ‘proving’ the friendship or relationship.
Talk to your child and tell them that no true friend would ask for highly personal information.
Say you understand the pressure they are under, but ask them to think about what could go wrong. If the relationship ends, what could the consequences be? The photo could be circulated online as an act of revenge, or their accounts could be hacked.
If your child is afraid to refuse directly, tell them it’s okay to say: “Sorry, I can’t. My parents keep track of this stuff and will take away my phone.”
Always be there to help
Making good choices online can be difficult for people of all ages, so be present for your child and keep an eye on their online activity.
Reinforce the importance of good choices by complimenting your child on what they are doing right online.
Remind them that they can come to you if they have questions or need your help fixing a mistake.