safer internet day
With a reported increase in images of child abuse appearing online in 2021, it is vital that adults ensure that they are doing everything they can to effectively protect their children when they use the internet.
In line with Safer Internet Day on February 8, 2022, Claire Watts, Safeguards Training Expert at leading training platform, High Speed Training, has provided information on how to identify when a child might be participating in unsafe content online:
1. They are constantly using their phone
“According to child safety experts, the most common age for a child to get a phone is between 12 and 13, in the UK this relates to when a child is in junior high school and has perhaps started making their own phone. on the way to school and become more independent. Having a phone at this age allows parents to stay in touch and children to make necessary calls.
“However, the concern starts when a child becomes too attached to their phone. If he’s noticed them wandering around when they’re supposed to be sleeping, or seeing constant use of their device, it may be worth talking to them about this.
While they may not engage in dangerous activities online, excessive use of or addiction to devices can have a negative impact on well-being and is worth addressing.”
2. You have noticed changes in their behavior
“Whether they’re more withdrawn from conversations, or maybe they’re secretive about who they’re talking to or where they’re going, these types of behavior changes could be the impact of feeling pressured or uncomfortable about something.
It is important to let the child know that whatever is bothering him, you are not here to judge or accuse, you are here to help.
“Other behavioral changes to watch out for would be showing signs of being more worried, anxious or distracted than usual.”
3. Show awareness of inappropriate language or content
“If you hear children discussing topics they are too young to discuss, using language they are unfamiliar with, or engaging with content that is above their age rating, for example younger children discussing video games and movies aimed at older 15 years old. or 18, this may be cause for concern.”
4. Concern for your friendship group
“If you’ve noticed that a child has made a new friend or changed groups of friends and it makes you uncomfortable, first try to gauge the dynamics of the relationship by having an informal conversation with your child.
If you think it’s necessary, reach out to parents or even set up a call with your child’s teachers/support staff; They will be able to help you if other children involved also attend your child’s school.
“If your teen has made a friend who is significantly older than him, it’s normal for you to worry and it’s wise to investigate the person and explain to your teen why it’s not an appropriate friendship.”
Here are some tips on how to broach the subject, set limits, and protect your child:
Implement parental controls
Most phones, tablets, and devices allow you to set parental controls that will only allow access to approved websites and content. Taking this first step will help you rest easy knowing that your child is using their device safely, as you have minimized the risks from the start.
You can also place child controls on your Wi-Fi to ensure that devices connected to the network can’t access sites with inappropriate content, as well as controls on streaming websites like Disney+, where you can select the age rating of the content that each profile can access.
Create a family agreement and set limits
For older children, such as those who are of the minimum age to set up social media profiles, have an open and honest discussion about what they are doing online, create agreement about the types of content that are inappropriate, and set limits such as since time limits or ‘no phones in the bedroom’ will ensure they don’t spend too much time online.
Increase your awareness of the risks involved
The Internet is constantly changing, with new risks and dangers being constantly identified, educating yourself and being aware of any protection issues is ultimately the best way to stay on top of your child’s safety.
This also puts you in a good position to educate your child about the dangers that surround the online community. If your child can understand how and why things go wrong online so often, then they are much more likely to be receptive to any limits you place around their internet/social media use.
Online protection training courses are there to help you navigate the multitude of risks that the Internet brings and help you identify when a problem with your child may occur.
If you’re extremely concerned about a child’s online activity, monitoring their devices and asking to see who they’re talking to is one way to find out exactly what’s going on. This is only recommended when there is a significant concern that warrants such action.
Perhaps you establish this term in your initial boundary talk, for example if you are going to use Instagram Messenger, explaining that you need access to see who is communicating with your child through this platform. If your child isn’t willing to open up early on, then you’ll need to enforce device supervision. Be sure to explain so the child understands that this is for her own safety.