Tuesday 9th February is Safer Internet Day. This year over one hundred countries will come together to promote a safer internet through raising awareness, improving education and working on laws to keep up with the changing times. The theme of this years event is “Play your part for a better internet”.
And of course for me, I believe parents have one of the most crucial parts to play when it comes to helping provide a safer internet for their families.
Here are some ways parents can make this happen:
Play with your kids. Search for favourite topics with them. Watch some funny youtube videos. Play an online game with them. When kids are young the most benefit they get from the technology comes from the interactive element of their playing. When they ay with someone, when they read a story, ask questions or predict an ending, they are gaining so much more than they would as passive consumers. As they get older, sure they may not want you to play with them online all the time, but occasionally, give it a go. Both you and your child might be surprised.
Learn what you can about what your kids are doing online. Accept that you need to make an effort to understand it even if you feel like you cant keep up. What sorts of sites are they visiting? What about their friends? What are the other parents saying about what their kids are doing? What are the latest trends in the media? Read about it, attend the parent cyber safety night. Look at the stuff the school sends home. It’s never any surprise to me that time and again Principals and teachers tell me the parents who have kids that are not doing the right thing online are the parents who never turn up to the information sessions or get involved in the technology.
Set up your home, devices and computers in a way that offers the best protection you can provide in order to prevent inappropriate content. Software, safe wifi, settings on devices and gaming consoles all need to be kept up to speed to minimise the trash. There is so much crappy, inappropriate and even vile content out there. As parents, we need to protect our children’s eyes and innocence for as long as we can. It’s not to say we will always have control or prevent them seeing everything, but we need to make an effort, and that starts with securing the home and the devices that are in it.
When we talk about monitoring our kids use of the internet ,one usually thinks about keeping passwords, scrolling through a child’s newsfeed and reading all their text messages. When they are starting out this can provide many useful teachable moments and helps us guide their online behaviours and interactions. Definitely relevant and useful when a child starts out. As they get older however, the focus must shift to monitoring the child as well. How are they going? Are they coping with the demands of school, friendships, social networks? Sometimes focusing on the child and our relationship with them gives us even more insight than scrolling one or two of the possibly many, many social accounts they may have.
In order to properly monitor our child we need to listen. Not only when they are answering our questions, but even when they are not. What are they not saying. What are they wanting us to hear? Are we actively listening to them or just waiting for them to finish so we can make them listen to us?
I always say to parents they need some ‘no brainer’ rules. The rules you have in your family that are just there. Always have been and always will. Examples may be no devices at night in bed, or no devices at the dinner table. Whatever you think are important for you family, be sure that everyone knows them, they don’t get questioned and they are just ‘what we do’… a bit like not having chocolate for breakfast, or letting the 5 year old stay up until midnight.
Understand that this is the only world your child has known. A world where the internet has and more than likely always will, just be there. Its not the online and the offline world….it’s just the world. Don’t bother telling them you did fine without the internet. They’ll never have to imagine that…..just as we don’t have to remember a time before television. By getting some perspective, we are in a much better position to make relevant decisions with regard to what the technology means to them, how they are using it and what they need from us in the way of guidance and boundaries.
Are you making picky, nasty comments on Facebook groups to try and elevate your standing, promote your business or just get kick out of demeaning someones comment? Of course not. But there are a gazillion people out there that are, so don’t be that person online if you have any hope of your child not being that person. Don’t ignore people by scrolling your Facebook feed when someone is talking to you. Don’t forget to get fresh air and play outside. Remember you are always modelling the behaviour your kids will most likely follow. Make sure its the right behaviours.
By doing these things we are giving our children the education, the guidance and the support they need to ensure their internet, is as safe as it can be. So parents we can play part. We can interact, play, protect, monitor, listen and help make the best decisions for our child to ensure they enjoy the many wonderful benefits of a safer internet.