As mentioned in the ‘About’ section, this blog aims to provide parents with information relating to cybersafety issues and ICT in general. In this post we will look at the issue of trying to keep up with and monitor what your children are up to online.
It is extremely important that parents monitor their children’s internet use, but also guide them in a positive and informed way about how to use it safely and responsibly. Easier said than done? Absolutely. But here are 3 points to follow that we can get you started on the journey:
- Keep devices out of bedrooms. Ensure that your children only use internet enabled devices, such as iPods, phones and tablets in shared areas of the house. This benefits you in 2 ways:
- it makes it easier for you to monitor what programs they are using and who they are communicating with
- it ensures that children are not up late at night using the device when they should be sleeping. Our teachers often deal with incidents that happen between students on iPod Touches online late at night, when both sets of parents assumed their children were asleep. The other thing to bare in mind is that research is consistently showing that using a backlit device, such as an iPod Touch, close to bedtime inhibits the body’s ability to sleep, which in turn directly impacts the child’s ability to learn at school.
- Agree on ground rules and set usage times in advance. Ensure that there is a clear understanding with your children about the periods of time in which they can use their devices. Agree as a family about the consequences of misuse. Allowing children to spend hours and hours on a device is not healthy. Suddenly telling your children they have to get off their devices or that they’re banned from them without warning can cause arguments and lead to children rightly or wrongly feeling they are being treated unfairly. The best method is to set usage times and ground rules in advance so that your children know they have a certain window of time on the device, and then when the time is up they will need to get off and do something else. They will also be clear on the behaviours expected of them while using the device.
- Engage in ‘co-viewing’. From the earliest age, take an interest in what your children are doing online. Engage in positive talk about it, and also take the opportunities to educate them about potential traps or dangers, such as purchasing items or engaging in social chat within games. We always advise that Primary students are too young to be on social networks such as Facebook or Instagram. If you choose to allow your child to create an account on a social network, or in fact any age appropriate game or website, ensure you also sit with them to set the account up. Remember, you are as responsible for their safety online as you are in the real world. You wouldn’t throw them in a swimming pool without ensuring first that they had learnt to swim! The internet is exactly the same. Learn together how to make the account private, set a complex password that can’t be ‘guessed’ or ‘hacked’, turn off photo geo-location permissions that can track where your child is. If you don’t know how to do these things don’t allow your child to set up an account until you find out. A quick search on You Tube or Google will usually provide you with the information you need.Once the account is set up, regularly view the interactions on the social network or game with your child, rather than spying on them, as this allows you to share in what is happening and to guide them in a trusting and positive way. This approach is also less likely to lead to children wanting to hide things from spying parents, or parents that they perceive as always being ‘negative’ about the technology, or who ‘just don’t get it’, as they get older. Building a positive relationship around technology use is incredibly important, because it means if something goes wrong down the line, your child is more likely to feel comfortable coming to talk to you about it rather than hiding it away.