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Teach your kids how to stay safe online

23 January 2018

The internet is a great tool for kids. They can use it to play games, read and learn, and socialise with their friends. But the online world is also full of challenges.

Kids begin socialising online very early—sometimes too early to understand the risks.

From the age of 13, they are legally able to create accounts with almost any popular networking site, such as Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Some sites will allow kids to sign up earlier than this. Virtual World Club Penguin allows kids of any age to create an account if they have parental consent—even a 5 year old!

Parents know how important it is to protect their kids as they embrace the online world. But according to a recent McAfee survey, 33% of parents say they can’t properly explain the dangers to their kids because they don’t know the risks themselves. So where do you start?

Talk with your kids about their online world

As soon as your kids start using a tablet, computer or mobile phone, teach them how to behave and stay safe online.

Here are some tips:

  • Have regular and open discussions about their online activities. Ask them about the websites they visit, who they’re chatting with and what sort of information they’re sharing about themselves.
  • Tell them about the dangers of socialising online. Explain why it’s important to protect their privacy and identity and what steps they can take to stay safe.
  • Learn about the sites they are visiting and explore them yourself. Consider setting up your own account with their favourite sites so you can familiarise yourself with the potential risks.

You won’t always be there to supervise your kids, but regular discussions will help them make the right decisions on their own.

Keep an eye on what your kids are doing online

Monitoring your kids’ time on the internet is an effective way to learn about the dangers they face:

  • Only let them go online when you can see what they’re doing and hold on to their device at all other times.
  • Use the parental control settings that are available on many devices. These allow you to restrict your kids’ usage and block unwanted content.
  • You could even think about specialised software to track your kids’ usage so you know exactly what they’re seeing.

What help is available to me as a parent?

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner has developed iParent. It offers a range of helpful information specifically for parents to learn all about the online world and the way their kids are using technology.

The SOS Guide to Cyber Safety on the ThinkUKnow website is another useful tool for parents. It gives clear and practical information about the online challenges kids face.

Stay Smart Online also has lots of information available to help you learn about online safety, including tips on browsing the web safely and socialising online.