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Keeping your children safe online

Your children’s online world is as much a part of their life as offline, so it is crucial that you are as involved in supporting their online wellbeing as you are their physical health. Your skills in rule setting, support, guidance and respect are just as important to helping ensure your kids enjoy positive digital experiences and to help them gain confidence in asking for advice and support. Knowing they are equipped to make sound decisions and manage risks online is so important, especially with the number of internet-enabled devices that can be used without adult supervision.

Explore the internet together

Digital education and communication is essential to the safety of your kids online. This will help instil confidence in your kids—and peace of mind for you! Exploring the internet together and talking about the websites, games and activities they enjoy is a good way to start those conversations. Get to know your children’s friends both online and offline and use technology-based solutions to help protect their devices—filters, parental controls and e-security software are all great tools. Remember—there is no substitute for your involvement because no-one loves your kids as much as you do.

Three steps to protecting your kids online

You can help keep your kids safe online using these three basic strategies.

1. Communicate openly with your kids

It’s not possible to supervise your kids 24/7 so finding ways to establish and maintain trust is really valuable.

  • Talk to them about their online activities, from chatting about their favourite websites to asking who they are talking to and if they are having any online issues.

  • Give them strategies to deal with upsetting online content, from turning off the screen, telling a trusted adult, and showing them how to block and report people.

  • Research the age ratings for the games and apps your child uses so you can determine age appropriateness and suitability.

  • Explore the sites and apps your kids love, play online games together and consider setting up your own accounts with the sites they frequent. This will help you familiarise yourself with the operation of those sites and potential risks. Ask your kids to show you how they work—they’ll love teaching you something!

  • Set age appropriate rules for using the internet and devices and, where practicable. Seek your child’s input—this will help your child understand risks. As they get older you can review your rules to align with their maturity level.

2. Use technology tools to keep them safe

There are so many technological advances that can enhance the experience for your child online and help keep them safe, both within the site or app and for their devices.

  • Use parental controls and install filtering software to help block unwanted content and pop-ups and to restrict access to specific content and pages.

  • Help your child to set up the privacy settings on all sites and devices they use.

  • Locate the computer in an area of your home that can be supervised. Parents of older children may have an ‘open door’ policy when devices are used in bedrooms and to ensure that screens are facing outward. And make sure you check in regularly to see what they’re viewing.

  • Consider rules for internet-enabled handheld devices—where and when.

  • Install and update anti-virus and other e-security software to restrict unauthorised access to data on the home computer. Ensure all security features are turned on and set to automatic scan and regular updates to protect against the latest risks.

  • Activate safety features on web browsers to protect your devices and personal information.

  • Show your child how to block and report users or pages on the sites they use.

3. Encourage safe and responsible behaviour

Setting rules for your child’s internet use and establishing clear boundaries and expectations is imperative. Your rules will depend on the age of your kids and the level of responsibility you are willing to give but is underpinned by conversation, education and trust.

  • Consider a family online safety contract as a tool to negotiate agreement about rules and renegotiate as required. It could cover the type of websites that can be visited, time spent online and acceptable online behaviour. This example from ThinkUKnow Australia can be a good starting point for your own family contract.

  • Educate your kids about safe and positive online behaviour and encourage them to think before they post, text or share; be respectful online; avoid posting things that may upset others; and understand that content can remain online forever and can be shared by others without permission.

  • Help them keep their personal information private. This means avoiding using full names, phone numbers, home address, school name and date of birth.

  • Set their online profiles to the maximum privacy settings. Online conversations, images and videos might be viewed by others and can’t always be removed.

  • Ensure your child uses strong passwords on devices and explain the importance of not sharing passwords, even with friends.

  • Talk to them about cyberbullying behaviour and how to report and manage it. You can get some great advice and resources about cyberbullying on the eSafety website

  • Explain the dangers of meeting face to face with someone they have only chatted with online.

  • Encourage your child to talk to a trusted adult if any content they view or if contact with someone online makes them feel uncomfortable.