Do you really know what your child does when they’re online?

For our children and young people, the internet is a wonderful place where they can explore, learn new things, communicate, be entertained and much more, with their curiosity and appetite for new content evolving and growing as they do. At Get Safe Online, we embrace these benefits, but equally, we know that it can be a challenging and potentially hazardous experience.

Do you know how long they’re spending online, what content they’re viewing or who they’re chatting with? Are you concerned that they could be bullied, befriended by the wrong kind of people or even being persuaded to commit criminal offences? Or even that it could be your child who’s the abuser or budding cybercriminal? (After all, everyone is somebody’s child).

Ironically, the fact that many of our young people have a greater knowledge of technology than we do doesn’t make them more aware of the day-to-day risks they face online. That’s why we’ve put together some expert tips to help you keep them safe and more aware of these dangers.

Have regular conversations with your child about the good and not-so-good things about the internet in language appropriate to their age. Get them to show you what they’re doing and try it out for yourself. Gain a better understanding of new online technologies and trends. Don’t shy away from discussing potential issues, but don’t make it scary. Keep it general so as not to get your child curious about specific sites. Check your facts beforehand.

• Set boundaries and rules from a young age, such as how much time they can spend online for a healthy balance. Draw up an agreement, with your child’s input, to give them a degree of ownership. Set an example by using your own mobile devices responsibly and at the right time.

• Chat with friends, family and other parents about how they help their children to progress and keep safe online. Swap experiences and tips. Agree with other parents on sleepover rules.

• Use parental control software and apps on computers, mobile devices and games consoles, privacy features on social networking sites, and the safety options on search engines. Opt into your ISP’s family filters. But use these controls only in conjunction with guidance and advice, as children may be able to get around the tech.

• Tell your child that not everybody they meet online is who they appear to be, whether they’re on social media, chatrooms, games or YouTube. Be aware that changes in behaviour or moods may be a sign of some kind of online abuse. Find out how to use social networks’ reporting buttons and show your children.

• Explain and encourage safe searching.

• Check lower age limits of social networking, picture sharing, gaming and other sites and apps. Download apps only from recognised sources such as App Store and Google Play. Add your own email address when setting up accounts for your child.

• Keep yourself up to date with new game and social media trends, especially those with negative publicity because they may be violent, encourage gambling or leave the way open for grooming.

• Use a family email address when signing up for apps so that you can keep a watchful eye.

• Be aware of the rise in children’s live streaming of themselves and the potential dangers. There is also a danger of children randomly being exposed to inappropriate content on video streaming sites such as YouTube and STEAM.

• Talk to your children about oversharing: do they really need to share personal details and events in their posts, profiles and chats? Could it have negative consequences? Look at what you share yourself … could it embarrass or endanger your children now or in the future?

• However well you know your child, ask yourself if they could be carrying out some kind of negative online activity that harms others, even if they do not realise this. Include this thought in your conversations with them, but don’t accuse. There are some great careers and pastimes your tech-savvy child can turn their hand to.