TECHNOLOGY PLAYS A huge role in all our lives, and there’s no exception for children but there are things that parents can do to protect their children online.
I’ve visited more than 400 primary schools across the country giving workshops on internet safety and anti-cyberbullying.
The first point I always make to parents is to engage in your child’s online activity – just show an interest.
As parents, we show an interest in every aspect of our children’s lives. If your child is interested in football, basketball or swimming – we show an interest. We talk about it. It’s normal chit chat in our home.
Ask yourself, “How often do you talk about the internet?”
Your child’s online world is a place they go to socialise with their friends. A place they spend as much time, if not more, than they do playing basketball or football. So why don’t we talk about it?
The norm not the exception
The more you make conversation about the internet the norm – rather than the exception, the more normal it feels, the more open it becomes, and perhaps the more insight you will get into your child’s online world.
It doesn’t have to be a serious conversation all the time. Many of the conversations we have with our children about the internet are us parents laying down the rules. “Don’t do this”, “You are not allowed on Facebook” etc.
Often these messages are received by children in a negative way. And so, we as parents are on the South Pole, plotting rules, worrying and giving out about our children. Meanwhile the kids are on the North Pole having great fun. Polar opposites.
Engage with them. Make it fun. If your child is into Taylor Swift, maybe subscribe to a Taylor Swift news feed, something that give you titbits of news on Taylor. Then at the dinner table you can have relaxed conversations about their internet life, “Did you hear what Taylor said about Katy Perry today?”
Engage, show an interest, make it fun and talk.
Rules and boundaries
You also need to set clear rules and boundaries in your home for the internet. As parents, we set rules and boundaries for every aspect of our children’s lives.
We decide what time they get up in the morning, what time they go to bed, what they eat etc. Children need rules and structure in their lives. Without them, their lives would be chaos.
Ask yourself if you have any real rules around the internet in your home? If you don’t, then why don’t you? Why is the internet different?
Many parents face challenges with controlling the amount of screen time their child has.
These are some simple things every parent should be doing at home:
- Make the bedroom a “no device” area
- Have “tech free” times and zones at home
- No screen time for one hour before bedtime
- Set reasonable and agreed limits for your child’s screen time
- As parents – lead by example
Use Parental Controls
As routine users of the internet, many parents struggle with idea of setting up a parental control, not knowing how to even take that first step.
Very often, parents are put off by the thought that it’s too technical and beyond their capability but any parent can set up a parental control and supervise their children’s online activity. Often, the hardest part is taking the first step.
It is important to remember however, that while parental controls are a useful aid for supervising online activity, they are not a substitute for having for having open and positive conversations with your children about their “online world”.
Ger Brick was formally an IT program manager with Microsoft and has more than 20 years of practical industry knowledge. He has now become one of the leading facilitators of anti-cyberbullying and internet safety workshops to Irish primary schools, delivering workshops to over 40,000 Primary School children.