Now recognised globally, Safer Internet Day (SID) has grown rapidly in recent years, aiming to protect child and young internet users and create a better online environment for all.
This year the chosen theme is “Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you”. Parents, carers and young people are all invited to get involved with the campaign and spread internet safety awareness by joining the conversation on social media with the hashtag #SID2018.
Children and young people are at the biggest risk of exploitation and abuse on the internet due to their personal and sexual exploration, compromised inhibition online, vulnerability to compliments or affirmation and fear of threats, forcing them to do something they don’t want to. This has become an increasing concern with the rise of social media networks and live streaming apps such as Musical.ly, YouNow and Periscope which broadcast live, unedited videos online.
As a parent or carer, it can be difficult to know how to broach the subject of online activity with your child. There are, however, a lot of practical things you can do to keep your child safe when they are online or using social media apps.
The most important thing is to promote ongoing conversations with your child about his/her internet use, making sure to ask them questions such as what they enjoy about being online, what they are learning and what new things they have discovered. Having these types of conversations little and often will help build a positive parental engagement around the use of the internet and help your child feel more comfortable about sharing their experiences.
As children grow older, their desire for privacy and independence grows also. However, it is to the discretion of the individual parent/carer to decide when a child might be responsible or developed enough to safely use a device unsupervised. Young children are especially susceptible to manipulation or abuse and therefore encouraging device use under direct supervision of an adult and not in private e.g. in bedrooms or bathrooms, ensures you can monitor their safety.
Private chat platforms are not as monitored and therefore provides a greater opportunity for offenders. Prompt your child to be wary of people they meet and speak to online and remind them never to give out personal information to those they don’t know.
Help your child to point out those that are trusted adults and those that are not. Remind them that people online should not be pressuring or coercing them into doing something or giving them instructions.
Young people often feel responsible for things that go wrong online, so it is important to make it clear that they are not to blame and remind them of trusted adults they can talk to.
If you have reason to believe that a child in your care, or a child you know is being sexually abused or exploited online, CEOP, which can be accessed by young people, parents/carers and professionals, can be used to make a report of the incident/s to a professional Child Protection Advisor click here to go to CEOP site. Alternatively, if a child is in immediate danger, report it to the police straight away.
For more information on Safer Internet Day, including resources and ways to get involved, click here to visit Safer Internet Centre’s site.
Or, for more information and advice on how to keep your child safe online click here to view the Thinkuknow site.