Here’s a little known few facts about me. I have ostrich tendencies. Yes indeed you did read that correctly. And whilst I don’t necessarily hit speeds of up to 70km per hour we are similar in the fact that I cannot fly, but boy can I run. Just slower. Much much slower if truth be told. But lets not let this get in the way of a good story.
Another thing we have in common is burying our heads in the sand. Strictly speaking they may be getting a bad rap here as according to the National Geographic, the ostrich doesn’t actually do this at all. But for the sake of continuing here as I started I’m granting myself poetic licence.
So what is my point here? Yes burying my head in the sand. I have done so for a few months now (if not years) with regards to where we are headed with the internet, social media and our children. I brushed it under the carpet as I felt my kids were so young that it simply did not matter to me and that by the time I needed it – the information would be there. We’d be ready and armed to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing us and our kids for the next generation.
It’s like this. It ain’t going anywhere – much as we wax lyrical about restrictions and settings, it’s here to stay and is continually evolving. In my opinion our best form of defence here is education. We are somewhat on the back foot and need to play catch up fairly fast. So what can we do?
Here’s what we know, according the Trend Micro:
There is no proper research done worldwide to determine the age children should be, from a child development perspective, to be online & using this technology . We simply do not know the impact that it is having on them. There simply is no evidence either way.
I recently spent a morning in Trend Micro at their invitation, to learn more about internet safety with a focus on keeping children and teenagers safe online. Trend Micro, for those of us who have not heard of them to date, are a global cyber security company. I became interested in what they do when I heard about their primary and secondary schools “What’s your story” contest – you can read more about that here.
The winners for this year have been announced but plenty of time to get thinking for next years one.
“We are the online generation but we are the generation that cannot go online”. Do we want to end up here? Is banning your kids from the internet realistic? What about all the good they can get from this relatively new realm of our society? How do I police the time they spend online? Who they interact with? What they will end up reading and seeing? Who can reach them? How do I keep them safe? Where can I learn more? How do I educate them as to what is appropriate behaviour online – both by them and towards them? WHERE DO I EVEN START? Is your heading spinning? Mine certainly is.
Trend micro has educated 1.5 million parents, kids, teachers to date on cyber safety and empowering our communities online. They work closely with Europol amongst many others, so I felt this would probably be a good place to start my education.
Here is what I learned from them. My Top Tips for Creating a Safe Environment for your family online.
- Nuture Relationships
The relationship with your children is the most important thing you need to protect & nuture thoughout their childhood and teenage years.
If they come to you and tell you something they have done online that is positive or negative, positive affirmation is really good. Do no over react or explode if they come to you with some thing they have done. Always reassure them that coming to you was the right thing to do even if you do not know the solution. Go drink the bottle of wine later if you need to but stay calm in front of them.
When the talking stops the problems start.
2. Be Informed:
We are 1st to put a device into their hands so we have to take responsibility and be informed. Here’s a tip: the internet has everything you need to know about internet safety – I’ll include some resources at the end of this post.
3. Supervision is key:
Know where they are, what they are doing, who they are with online. Always be in ear and eye distance of them when possible. I realise this is easier the younger they are.
Charge devices outside of the bedrooms as a family rule. For example, on the landing rather than in the bedrooms or preferably downstairs overnight. Set family rules and agree with them kids. Ask yourself continuously “Am I happy with the way things are in my house? Do I need to make changes?” Consider a family contract – even to use as conversation rather than actually doing it
4. Research together:
An example is the best way to explain this one. Your child comes home wanting to know what roadblocks is. You have no clue.
“Do your homework, etc and we’ll research it together. Let me tell you what I am worried about. I’m worried about what you are going to see and hear – it may be inappropriate, what you might share ( school uniform crest could identify location), who could be in touch with you. Let’s find out what is good about it together and let’s understand the privacy and safety settings as a team”
Here you are teaching them how to research too.You will learn from each other.
“Let’s go to safe website. Sites with https:// are secure websites. This box here that came up is a Pop up – don’t click on these. It is possibly a virus. This here is asking you to click and accept a Cookies. Do you know what these are? They track your habits…. they allows companies understand you as a consumer”
Here you can teach them about media literacy
5. Checking in:
Whether it is in the car, at bedtime, just check in with your child at least once a week. Ask “How are you getting on?” as opposed to presuming all is ok as you have heard nothing. It has to be primarily about the relationship between you and your child over and above privacy settings.
For every hour your child under 10 has of online activity you need to encourage them to have an hour activity off line (walk the dog, trampoline). Spending time with them on their own will encourage conversation that may not occur should you not take time to specifically check in.
What About Parental Controls? Won’t they solve the lot?
Parental controls are great from the ages of 0-10 but we need to equip our children with the tools to make responsible decision on their own. Privacy settings of course play a significant role but the most important thing is your relationship with them & the power of listening. Let them know that they can talk to you. We all have choices & the choices we make online have consequences. What we do and say online represents who we are and we are judged from it
Below I have attached 2 videos that TrendMicro drew my attention to. They are worth a watch – I’m a firm believer in better the devil you know!
This 2nd one is for teenagers (and adults!!). It is 11 minutes long but is worth the investment. Europol commisioned it and our Garda Garda Siochana emblem is embedded at the end of it. This is real – it happens. It’s not a what if.
My favourite resources:
Trend Micro online resources page – everything you need from help with Maths to staying safe.
Cybersafe Ireland: Empowering children, parents and teachers to navigate the online world in a safe and responsible manner
Webwise Ireland parent and teacher guide.
Apple devices: safety features in Apple devices that are both useful for families and you may not know exist.
Tips from Facebook on staying safe on their platform.
ReachOut – Youth Mental Health
ReachOut for Parents – Mental Health
I hope that you find this post a little helpful – even if it is a start with regards to finding the information that you want. Or at least gets you and your family talking.
Your’s, feeling like knowledge is power,
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