“Shouldn’t parents be paying closer attention to what their kids are doing online?”
“When I speak to the school Principal, they say they have no control over what happens on a group chat after hours”
“I asked a social network to take something down and I they said it didn’t violate their guidelines”
“Little Johhny showed my child porn and there’s nothing I can do about it”
“My account was hacked and the social network did nothing about it so I have lost everything”.
“I was told this game was safe but somehow my child has connected with a stranger”
These are just some of the statements that I have heard when it comes to online safety and protecting our kids. Parents are frustrated by the inaction of other people, organisations, designers, administrations, policy makers or even other peoples kids. Often it seems to be overwhelming. Often they want a quick fix. Often they want help but are not getting the right help. Often they are offered help, but don’t take it up.
So whose responsibility should it really be to keep our kids safe online? The theme of this year’s Safer Internet day is “Together for a better internet”. And absolutely we need to all get together for a better, safer internet for our kids.
But ultimately as parents, we are going to have to do some work right now, whilst we can and whilst we wait for the “others” to do what they need to do. Whilst we wait for the creators to implement safety by design. Whilst we wait for schools to really get some solid policies in place. Whilst we wait for legislators to demand we improve what and how our kids are accessing content online. Whilst we wait for all of that to start or continue to happen, there is so much we can all do right now, to give our kids and ourselves, a better, safer internet.
Sometimes as parents we are coming at the digital world with some previously formed views and opinions that may not always be helpful. Maybe we could take a look at how we can open ourselves up to new ways of thinking that may help us connect better with our kids and become more relatable and relevant to their challenges and experiences, both positive and negative. So we may ask ourselves……
Can I challenge my mindset?
- Am I always parenting from a place of fear? Could the right knowledge and the right communication with my child enable me to feel more empowered when it comes to parenting in a digital world?
- How would I have been as a young person with social media, gaming and a connected world? Do I need to be reminded that this is the only world our kids have ever known?
- Am I always talking about technology in a negative way, thus possibly setting up an “ us versus them” scenario.
Do I need to look at my own online behaviours?
- Do I feel in control of the way I spend my time online, or could I possibly makes some changes for more intentional scrolling?
- Are there people or accounts that I follow that are not helpful for me, or leaving me with negative experiences online?
- Am I always respecting others, even when I disagree with them, are frustrated by them or have trouble understanding their point of view?
- Am I able to recognise conversations that should be had in real life or those that I need to abort in order to safeguard my own reputation and wellbeing?
- Am I role modelling good behaviours in terms of how I use my device around other people?
Am I really looking at my individual child and their needs?
- Are there any circumstances about my child or our families lifestyle that may suggest we need different rules or boundaries to others?
- How is my child coping with their online experiences? Are they still keeping up with all the things they enjoy away from the screens? Are they getting enough sleep? Eating well? Staying acting? Hanging out with friends? Keeping up with school work? If all of these are OK for the most part, then do I have to spend so much time worrying about how long they are using a device?
- Are there positive pursuits we could explore together online? Do they have any interests or passions that could help them create things, change the world or simply be inspired by what they and others are doing online?
- Are they playing a game I have no idea about? Could I give it a go or ask them to teach it to me?
What are some things I can do right now to keep my child safe online?
- Can I look at the settings section of my child’s device and see if there is any way I can make it safer?
- Are there elements to a game or social network that I can change in order to give my child a safer and more positive experience? (i.e turn off nasty comments in Instagram or change who can contact your child on Fortnite)
- Can I research an app or game my child is playing to make sure we are having the right conversations about any concerns I may have or any challenges they may face?
- Can I revisit the boundaries we have and make sure they are in line with what is important. For example, am I ensuring that I am enabling my child to have downtime so they can relax and unwind and be more mindful with their time. Do we have rules to ensure they have a solid sleep without interruptions? Do I insist on family meals where our focus is on connecting with each other without the presences of a device?
There are so many more ways we can all do our part for a better internet and I will certainly continue to help you, your families, schools and other organisations continually strive for a better internet whilst we also continue to demand better practices from all elements of society. But lets even start with a few things we can do right now and maybe even challenge ourselves a little in terms of how we think about the digital world.
Also be sure to check out the work of the Office of the eSafety Commission and follow the hashtag #SID2020 or #saferinternetday on Twitter on Tuesday 11th Feb for more discussions on how we can all come together for a better internet. Twitter.com/esafetyoffice