With children increasingly exposed to digital media and online technology at an early age, parents play an important role in imparting the necessary knowledge and skills to keep them safe from online dangers.
Here are seven tips to help you get started:
Understand internet safety
Before you start discussing internet safety with your child, equip yourself with the necessary knowledge about the internet, online dangers and how to stay safe online. Here are some online resources that may be useful to help you kick-start discussions with your child:
Start conversations early
Is your child going to use a computer or tablet soon? Now’s the best time to start a conversation with your child to prepare him or her against threats they may not fully understand. If your child has already started using a computer or tablet, it is not too late. Get the conversation going as soon as you can. As it takes time to inculcate in children good internet safety habits, be sure to have regular conversations to help build a strong foundation for your child to be safe online.
Be open and honest
Open and honest communication is key to establishing trust with your child. Talk to your child regularly about their favourite websites and apps, and what he or she enjoys doing online. Be supportive and always listen with an open mind. If you learn that your child has done something online that you find inappropriate, have a discussion with your child about what is happening and be honest about the reasons why you think what he or she has done is inappropriate. At the same time, discuss about what he or she can do to stay safe online. By keeping lines of communication open, your child will be more likely to come to you if they encounter any problems online in the future.
Establish rules but exercise flexibility
When establishing ground rules for your child, involve them in the decision-making process. This establishes trust and ensures that rules are achievable for them, allowing them to take better ownership of their safety online. As your child grows older, the way they use the internet will change. Exercise flexibility and make adjustments to rules to ensure that they remain relevant and age-appropriate. For example, your child’s need to use the internet for homework may increase as they grow older, and it may be difficult to impose a time limit on their internet usage. Instead, set a flexible schedule in consultation with your child so that he or she may use the internet for specific purposes.
Cybersecurity concepts such as computer viruses and password sharing may be abstract and difficult for children to understand. To better explain these concepts, compare it to something that is familiar to your child through the use of analogies. For example, you can explain that sharing the password to your online account is akin to giving away the key to the door of your home. By making such connections to the real world and keeping the rules consistent for online and offline activities, it helps children to better understand the dangers of cybersecurity and physical security.
Show, don’t just tell
Children may follow what they see, instead of what they are told. Use demonstrations and examples to help them better understand how to stay safe online. For instance, you can sit down with your child to explore his or her favourite websites together, and demonstrate how your child can create strong passwords for these websites. Show him or her the different letters, numbers and symbols he or she can use, and how he or she can create passwords from memories unique to them. You can also use educational online games to help your child learn about internet safety in a fun way.
Be a good role model
Children learn by watching and imitating others, therefore parents are the most powerful influences shaping a child’s behaviour. Show your child that you are able to abide by the rules that you have established for them. For example, if you have set meal and bed times as off-limit hours for your child to use the internet, make sure you follow the same rules as well. This sets an example for them to emulate, and encourage them to follow the rules.
As your child becomes more confident in navigating the world wide web, you will need to continue efforts to ensure that internet safety remains a priority. By starting a conversation with your child early and having open and honest conversations with him or her regularly, you can help your child develop a strong foundation to use the internet safely and responsibly.
A Parent's Guide to Keeping Children Safe and Smart Online
Digital Parenting with Preschoolers Guide
Clique Click - Bringing Up Children in the Digital Age
How to Keep our Kids Safe Online - Start by Talking About it
Cyber Safety Activity Book Series