Keeping your child safe online

 

Introduction

Both parents and teens need to bear in mind that young people are struggling to make sense of who they are and where they fit in. Their online presence is a vital part of that. Teens may also have a different sense than their parents of where the boundaries lie – but both young people and parents need to be streetwise -  being online is not wholly controllable and children and young people need to have the same levels of alertness and judgement that they would in any public place. It’s really important that they know:

  • Stuff stays around – online content lasts
  • It’s very visible – there is potential for a huge audience for our teens’ mistakes
  • It can go viral – there’s a chance that images or messages could spread rapidly
  • It’s searchable – people can look up our young people and find them easily

Digital Parenting Tips

  • There’s no substitute for talking – it’s good to talk to your child about what they do in the online world.
  • Try out the technologies your child enjoys - download some of their music and have a go at games they like
  • Talk to friends and family about how they manage their children's digital lives
  • Remind older siblings that websites they use may not be suitable for younger brothers and sisters
  • Make digital issues part of everyday conversation - talking about subjects like cyberbullying, sexting and copyright infringement
  • When you're talking about bullying, sex and relationships and other issues, don't forget to include the online aspects
  • Talk to your children about whether the issues they face are different online and offline - or how online and offline work together to complicate their lives
  • Don't be afraid to set boundaries and rules
  • Your digital use is a model for your child – if you check for emails and social media posts all of the time, your child is likely to do the same.

 

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Setting Boundaries

Children need boundaries to help them grow into respectful, confident and productive adults. Limits help children feel safe and contained, but young people also need freedom to try things out, make mistakes and develop their independence. The boundaries we set help children learn to set limits for themselves and develop their self-discipline.

Boundaries are equally important when it comes to technology. The digital world is so exciting for young people that they’ll probably need your help to manage things like finding a reasonable balance between online and offline time. Some boundaries will be non-negotiable, especially when it comes to the safety of your child and others. Others will be more flexible – you may, for instance, want to set different limits on screen time during exams than over school holidays. 

 

The key things to remember when setting your boundaries are:

  • Know your child Get to know what is normal at each age and stage of your child's development. Setting boundaries that work will be much easier if your expectations of how they should behave match where they are developmentally. For example, don’t expect young children to be able to switch off their games at a moment’s notice – they often find it easier to disconnect if given a ten-minute warning.
  • Stay consistent Children need clear limits and boundaries. They will not thrive or survive without them, and neither will you! Rules that are clear and simple and are easier to stick to. Children’s memories aren’t that good so you may find yourself repeating them. Make sure that they know what is expected of them and what the consequences will be if the rules are broken.
  • Allow room for negotiation Children are more likely to stick to the boundaries they help create. Making sure they know the reasons behind rules will help prepare them to regulate their own behaviour as they grow up. Talk to your children about how you expect them to behave and give them the chance to voice their opinions. Let them know that some rules are non-negotiable – like being careful who you talk to online – while others can be discussed. Pick your battles carefully and don't over burden your child with too many rules.
  • Recognise the good behaviours Try not to fall into the trap of always focusing on the negative. Recognising when things are good and your children are following the rules and sticking to the boundaries – especially if they’ve found this hard before – will encourage them to keep that up.

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Social Media - A Parent's Guide

Social networking is a massive part of young people’s lives. It can sometimes seem as though apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Facebook and Twitter take up most of a typical teen’s waking hours.

As a parent, it’s natural to worry about what your child does on social media and the amount of time they spend doing it. If you’re not active on Snapchat yourself, it can be hard to understand the allure of sending and viewing pictures designed to self-destruct. And even if you do use some of the major social networks, it often seems like new ones are popping up every minute.

But so many of the things you’ll have to think about when helping your child enjoy social media are similar to the things you think about in their offline friendships – are they getting too hung up on what other people think? Are their friends pressuring them or undermining their confidence? And of course, there are some specific issues that come with socialising online.

Here are a few tips to help you and your child navigate the world of social media:

Age limits - Most social media has a minimum age - the most common one by far is 13. It’s not necessarily a judgement on how age-appropriate the service is so you might think your child is ready at a younger age, or should wait until they’re even older. Still, it’s important to remember that sites and apps that are 13+ may not have measures in place to protect younger children, or could allow content that’s aimed at an older age group.

Set some ground rules - Especially when your child first starts using social media, it’s a good idea to talk about what is and isn’t allowed. For instance, you might be happy for your child to have a Facebook account, but only want them to accept friends they know in real life.

Know the tools - Safety tools and privacy settings are an important part of using social media responsibly.  Talk to your child about how to find blocking and reporting tools and privacy settings on their favourite apps, and why it's a good idea to use them.  Find out more information on setting safety and privacy settings on social media apps.

Comparing yourself to others - We tend to put our best face forward online. No one wants to post pictures of when their weekend away got rained out and they spent the whole time moping indoors. But it’s easy to get a bit down on yourself after scrolling through a feed of pictures of all your friends having a great time. And depending on who your child follows, there might well be some unattainably gorgeous celebrities thrown in for good measure. Your child will need to think criticallyabout what they see on social media and remember that no one is as perfect as their Instagram account would suggest.

What others think about you - Everyone likes to be appreciated and it feels good when friends like or share your posts on social media. It’s also easy for teens and young people to get too preoccupied with what their peers think of them. This natural insecurity plus easily quantifiable measures of popularity, like number of Facebook friends or likes on a selfie, can be a tricky mix. Make sure your child knows you’re always there for them if it ever feels like they’ve got no friends, and remind them of all the things they’re good at and loved for offline. If your child is one of the few with thousands of adoring followers, talk about how no one can please everyone all the time. It’s risky to tie your sense of self too closely to other people’s opinions.

Bullying - Some people do use social media specifically to bully others. Whether it’s cruel comments on pictures, nasty messages or a dedicated hate group, online bullying can be very hurtful and can feel harder to escape than offline bullying. Fortunately, just about all the major social media platforms come with tools for blocking other users and reporting abuse. Find out more information on tackling online bullying. You should also make sure your child knows how – and how not – to treat other people online. Something that seems like a harmless joke to one group of friends could end up really hurting someone else.

Digital footprint - Your children have probably heard it all before, but it’s still important to remind them that what goes online stays online. Making hurtful comments or posting compromising pictures could give people the wrong idea about who they really are, and could even affect their school and work options later in life.

 

Don’t forget the positives - Your child’s digital footprint doesn’t have to be a risk to be managed. Using social media positively and creatively can help them build an online reputation to be proud of. Lots of worthwhile causes use social media to campaign and raise awareness, and your child can use it to get involved in something they care about. It can also be a useful tool for staying informed, making professional connections and keeping in touch with friends and family.

Stay involved - You don’t have to know about every new app that’s popular with teens but it’s smart to have a general sense of what your child gets up to. You probably want to know where your child goes and what they do with friends in the offline world – it’s the same thing online.

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Sexting

What is sexting?

  • Exchanging images of a sexual nature with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Sharing images of a sexual nature with someone you like
  • Passing on images of a sexual nature to groups of friends without permission

Research by Plymouth University found that 40% of 14-16 year-olds said they had friends who had engaged in this kind of texting.

  • 20% of them didn't think there was anything wrong with sending images involving full nudity
  • 40% thought going topless was acceptable

What should you be concerned about?

Most of us made mistakes in our teenage years – that’s part of growing up. However, our mistakes weren’t recorded for ‘safekeeping’! These days, young people record their lives on a minute-by-minute basis. The images they create can be copied, manipulated, posted online and sent to other people in a matter of seconds.  Ex-partners have been known to pass on images after a relationship has come to an end, as a means of revenge.

You - or your child - could be breaking the law by taking, holding or sharing indecent images of a minor. And if these images are stored on a family computer, you, as a parent, could be implicated. Any image of a person under-18 sent may constitute an indecent image of a child, in legal terms, and be prosecutable under the Protection of Children Act 1978.

The police are concerned that sex offenders search for these kinds of images and may use them to blackmail the subjects.

 

What can you do?

  • Talk to children about the fact that images, once online, are there for all time - and you have no control over what happens to them.
  • Urge your child to think before they post.
  • Warn them against passing on images of others.
  • Remember that it's normal for teenagers to do unwise things - how daft would you have been if you'd had a smart phone in your pocket?

Just found out that your child has been sexting?  Click here

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Reporting Offensive or Illegal Online Activity

Hateful or sexually inappropriate content

  • You can report directly to the content provider, such as a social media or online video provider, asking them to remove hate-filled or overly sexualised content. 
  • Most social media platforms have simple processes in place for reporting inappropriate content. Try searching for 'Report', or look through their terms and conditions, or 'Help' section.
  • ParentPort is run by the UK's media regulators and allows you to make complaints about online content, wherever you find it. Visit www.parentport.org.uk
  • True Vision is a police-funded site that provides information about hate crime. You can report all forms of hate crime, including online content, at www.report-it.org.uk. This includes racial, homophobic, transphobic, religious or disability hate crime.

Bullying

Some people do use social media specifically to bully others. Whether it’s cruel comments on pictures, nasty messages or a dedicated hate group, online bullying can be very hurtful and can feel harder to escape than offline bullying. Fortunately, just about all the major social media platforms come with tools for blocking other users and reporting abuse. Visit www.antibullyingpro.com for more information on tackling online bullying. 

Mobile phone content

Report any usnitable online content (film, still images or even plain text) that your child sees using their mobile phone to your mobile operator.  If the mobile operator requires further advice, the query will be passed to the British Board of Film Classification.

Inappropriate contact with an adult online

If you know or suspect your child has been communicating with an adult online who has tried to do any of the following, report it to CEOP, part of the National Crime Agency:

  • talked about sex or other inappropriate sexual activity;
  • asked them to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable, such as send them a naked or partially-clothed image;
  • asked them to meet them offline;
  • asked them to lie to their parents about, or tried to hide, their online relationship.

Images of child sexual abuse

Sadly, anyone can stumble across online child sexual abuse images and videos if you do, you can make an anonymous and confidential report to the Internet Watch Foundation at www.iwf.org.uk

 

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