Talking regularly with your child is the most powerful way to keep them safe online. Discussing what they are doing and making it part of an everyday conversation not only helps you to understand what they’re engaging with but also signposts what you may need to talk about and why. From the moment your child starts using a device, it's important to talk about online safety in an age-appropriate way. Even young children can unwittingly expose themselves to things you don't want them to see—and download damaging software without realizing what they are doing.
It is important to show a genuine interest in what your children are doing online, not just in their online safety. Watching them play online games and work through puzzles encourages your children to talk to you and lets them know you are interested in their activities. The same goes for older children—ask them to suggest people you can follow on various platforms or tell you what makes them laugh online. This can open the doors to a discussion.
Here are some safety tips for discussing (often) with your child:
- Never give out phone numbers without a parent’s/caregiver’s permission.
- Never give your name or address to a stranger or someone online or on social networks.
- If someone says something inappropriate or that makes you feel uncomfortable, tell a Safe Adult as soon as you can.
- Do not click on links strangers send you.
- Do not send photos of yourself to people you don’t know.
Work with your child to develop a family media agreement, including limits on social media use:
- Computers, tablets, phones and gaming should be in a common area of the house.
- Agree on a number of hours your child can be online for fun.
- No social media/electronic use during agreed sleep hours.
Be sure to model whatever behaviors you set around online safety, including limiting screen time and boundaries around usage. Children learn as much from watching as they do from being told not to do something.