How to help kids stay safe online
It is likely to mean young people spending more time at home, and online. There are a lot of great ways they can use connected devices to learn and play, but there are also risks that you can help them avoid.
The eSafety Commissioner website has a wide range of advice for parents and carers covering common online safety issues like managing screen time, cyberbullying, inappropriate content, sending nudes and contact from strangers.
Here is some key information that we have copied from their site.
Here are some steps to help protect young people.
1. Start the chat
It’s not possible to be at your child’s side every second of the day, so it’s important to talk with them about online safety issues to help develop their critical thinking and ability to make good choices. It’s also good to let them know they can come to you for help if they have any concerns. You may feel they know more about the latest technology than you do, but you have more life experience to guide them.
Take the opportunity to set some boundaries around when and where they can use devices like tablets, smart TVs and gaming consoles, to help limit potential tech tantrums — you could even fill in an Early Years Family Tech Agreement.
While you are all at home more, it’s a great time to co-view and co-play with your kids, so you can understand what they are doing and experiencing online.
Learn about the games, apps, social media and platforms they are using at The eSafety Guide, including how to protect their information and report inappropriate content or conduct.
Encourage them to explore eSafety’s targeted advice for kids (primary school) and young people (secondary school).
Check eSafety’s tips for talking with your child about tricky personal subjects like online pornography.
2. Use parental controls and safe search options
Parental controls can help block your child from accessing specific websites, apps or functions. They can also monitor your child’s use of connected devices and set time limits. But beware! You cannot always rely on them — they should be used in combination with other online safety strategies.
Parental controls are available on most tablets, smartphones, computers, TVs and gaming consoles.
You can also download family safety controls or buy robust filters out of the box.
You can set up child-friendly search engines, or select safe search settings on digital devices, to help prevent your child from stumbling across inappropriate sites and content.
3. Check smart toy settings
It’s surprising how many toys or devices can connect online these days, from drones and smart teddies to tablets and wearables. While they can be both entertaining and educational, they can reveal your child’s personal details and location — and allow other people to contact them without you knowing. You can help keep them stay safe by:
- setting strong passwords
- turning off location settings
- limiting the amount of personal information shared.
- The eSafety Gift Guide has advice on what to check for and how to stay safe.
4. Look out for unwanted contact and grooming
Unwanted contact is any communication that makes your child feel uncomfortable or unsafe, even if they initially welcomed the contact. It can come from a stranger, an online ‘friend’ or even someone they actually know. At worst, it can involve ‘grooming’ — building a relationship with the child in order to sexually abuse them.
You can help by:
- making sure their accounts are private — including chat functions on games
- encouraging them to delete requests from strangers and any contacts they don’t know in person
- reporting and blocking anyone suspicious on a website or service
- remembering that if they become aggressive or threatening you should contact your local police.
5. Know the signs of cyberbullying
Kids who are bored by long periods at home can pick at each other, and that happens online too. So it’s important to keep an eye out for cyberbullying. It can include mean posts, comments and messages, as well as being left out of online group activities like gaming.
Remember, when they are away from school, kids have less access to their usual support systems, including friends, teachers and counsellors.
eSafety research shows that 14 is the average age of kids who are cyberbullied, girls are more likely to be affected than boys and the person doing the bullying is generally someone they know from school.
Watch out for signs like your child or teen appearing upset after using their mobile, tablet or computer, being unusually secretive about their online activities or becoming withdrawn.
Cyberbullying can make social isolation worse and the longer it continues, the more stressed kids can become, impacting on their emotional and physical wellbeing.
What to do if your child is being cyberbullied
As parents, our first instinct may be to ban our children from social media, disable the wi-fi or turn off the data access. But this can actually compound the problem, making your child feel as if they’re being punished and heightening their sense of social exclusion.
There are four simple steps that can help minimise the harm:
- report the cyberbullying to the social media service where it is occurring
- collect evidence of the cyberbullying material
- if the material is still public 48 hours later, make a report to eSafety — we work with social media platforms to have the harmful content removed.
- block the offending user.