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25 Jul 2018

Keep your child safe online over the summer holidays

With the summer holidays fast approaching and children looking to spend more time online, now’s a good time to make sure they aren’t doing anything that might endanger themselves or others.

Over the past year, it’s been widely reported that an increase in online activity, particularly the use of social media, is linked with the rise in cyberbullying and long-term mental health issues. Smoothwall’s own research has found that the impact of cyberbullying can have detrimental effects on the mental wellbeing of young people, with 1 in 4 feeling insecure and 1 in 5 feeling anxious. It’s therefore as parents, guardians and caregivers, our responsibility to ensure our young people are kept safe when using the internet.

Here are Smoothwall’s top five tips to help you keep your child safe online:

Communicate

Being away from school is a good chance for parents and carers to get to know their child’s online habits. Conversation starters can include asking them what websites/apps they are using, how regularly they are using them, who else is using them and why they enjoy using them. Taking an interest and having positive conversations is a crucial element of gaining their trust so that if anything happened online that worried or upset your child, they would feel confident in telling you.

Know when to turn off

Having quick and easy access to the internet without the structure of the school day means children may end up spending a lot of time online. It’s vital they know when to take a break and start a new activity. For example, they might start experiencing tired eyes, headaches, interrupted sleep or mood swings. Setting time limits and offering alternative activities to being online are good starting points. It’s also important to make sure young people don’t have access to devices in individual bedrooms – only allow access to the internet within the family space where you can monitor their screen time.

Online etiquette

It’s essential for young people to understand what actions and comments are and aren’t appropriate online. Everyone has different feelings and opinions so it’s important for them to respect this and treat people the same when they are in the online world as they would when they are face to face. Remember, the internet isn’t private. Anything that is posted is there to stay and can be seen by anyone, even future employers, so make sure your children are happy with everything they choose to communicate.

Sharing photos and videos

Young people often want to share photos and videos that display what they are getting up to, but unfortunately, it’s very easy for them to end up in the wrong hands. It’s vital that everyone is aware of the information each post, photo and video contains as they can all hold personal information. For example, sharing a photo of your friends playing in your street can give away your age and location.

Secure your devices

Smartphones, laptops and games consoles all contain a vast amount of personal information therefore you must take the necessary security precautions to protect your data.

  1. Use strong passwords and passcodes – if your device is lost or stolen, strong passwords and passcodes can help protect your information and keep prying eyes away. To find out more, read Smoothwall’s guide to safe passwords.
  2. Enable privacy settings – turn on privacy settings across all social media accounts and apps to prevent unknown people from viewing your profile or contacting you. The default setting is often public, meaning that everyone can see your posts, pictures and videos.
  3. Virus protection – make sure all devices have up to date software that protects against viruses and malware.
  4. Parental controls – consider applying parental controls to all gadgets. This can help limit the time the device can be used or restrict internet access. You can also choose whether apps/ games can be downloaded.
  5. Disable geolocation settings – did you know that when you post an image to social media, you might be posting your exact location via the default ‘geotagging’ feature? You can disable your phone’s geolocation feature by going into your location settings. Just remember to do this across all devices and make sure you don’t proactively tag your location.

If you have anymore questions of how you can stay safe online this summer, please comment below. Alternatively, you can visit our Online Safety Zone for up to date advice and resources.

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