It is unsafe to allow children unlimited or unsupervised access to the internet and social media.
We have all heard recently about some scary things our children can be vulnerable to online. A lot of parents have been left feeling unsure about what the online world holds for our children and anxious with no sure way of knowing how to protect them from that.
We need to look at it simply and just consider their safety, just as we consider it in other situations too. No parent would let their little one drive a car without necessary lessons and preparation.
It would be considered highly dangerous to both the child and others to just let them out on the road, without any support. And while the internet and social media are absolutely every bit as useful as a car can be, the same safety measures should be taken.
It is unsafe to allow children unlimited or unsupervised access to the internet and social media. It can be easy to think that as your child gets older they might be less at risk but, they continue to need guidance and support around keeping safe.
Many parents feel with their lack of knowledge of the online world they can’t even begin to know how to keep their child safe. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Teach them what you do know, the basics-
- Never to give their personal information out- their name, phone number, email address, password, postal address, school, or picture without your permission
- Not to open emails from people they don't know
- Don’t accept friendship requests from people they don’t know
- To verify requests if they look to be coming from someone you do know
- Not to respond to hurtful or inappropriate messages
- Never agree to a private chat with a stranger
- Never to arrange to meet up with anyone they have only ever spoken to online
- If you are still unsure as to where to go with guidelines after you have outlined the above to your child.
Here are some suggestions-
Set Some Rules
Letting your child know ahead of time what the rules are involving a computer, tablet, and phone time will help establish a routine from the get-go. Talk about time limits, internet etiquette, and how involved you will be in setting up accounts. If your child understands that you can see everything they can see, not only will they have a better chance of staying safe, but they’ll also know exactly what their limits are.
Information is power. Get to know all the games and apps that your child is using, what their rules of use are, and what features they have. Some popular kids’ games, like Roblox have a chat feature that allows players to talk to one another even if they don’t know each other in real life. Some apps have a minimum age requirement just to sign up because their platform shares things publicly. Get familiar with your child’s movements online and talk with them about how to best stay safe and what your rules and boundaries are regarding it.
While parental controls and internet filters can only go so far, it is still an important component of online safety. Children can very easily accidentally access inappropriate content that is highly explicit. They watch something innocent online, this ends and some other suggested videos come up on their screen. Parental controls are more important than we realize.
If your child asks you if they can join a social media site, and you feel under pressure to say yes, give yourself the option of saying that you will think about it. Then spend some time on the app they want to use before you make your decision as it will inform you about the kind of place your child will be spending some time on. Take time making the decision, inquire a lot. Ask your child why they want to join? What do they think the benefits will be by joining? Sometimes children want to be on a social media site just because everyone else seems to be on it, so the issue of peer pressure needs to be checked out.
As children move into adolescence, they are beginning to deal in their unconscious mind with the questions “Who Am I?/What is my identity?”, and so they really tune into what their peers think of them, in order to work this question out. Social media is not an ideal place to figure things out when everyone else on the sites life looks “picture perfect”.
Be open and honest with your child, telling young people about this question in their unconscious mind can help them understand why they might be so sensitive to or eager for feedback online. It makes the unconscious conscious. Information about how their mind is working can lead to young people having more power over how they feel. Explaining to your child that most people will just be posting the “fun” and “positive” aspects of their life and not the bad days they’re having can help them understand the world of social media a little bit better and not fall victim to it.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.