Talking to Children About Online Safety

14233681_10157575944510413_1523813355_oBy Anja Moore-Heighington
Communications and Resource Development Coordinator

Whether we like it or not, children are online. From iPads to smartphones, children have access to the internet in a variety of ways and through a variety of methods. Sometimes it seems that they know more about what’s happening online than we do!
But do you know how to talk to your children about online safety? 

Here are five tips on how to talk to your children about online safety:

  1. Do your homework first. 
    If you don’t know what Instagram is, how are you supposed to teach your children how to use it safely? Before talking to your children, learn about the popular social media sites and best practices to using the internet safely.
  2. Set age-appropriate rules and standards for how and when your children can use the internet.
    As a parent, set age-appropriate rules for your child, such as only being able to play online with supervision or only setting up social networking accounts with permission. By doing this, you are setting a standard of expectation for your children. This also allows for guidelines to be in place before an issue arises.
  3. Teach your children how to use social networking sites (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) safely. 
    Your children will likely want to join social networking sites at some point, and if you decide they should be allowed to do so, you should also be teaching them how to use these sites safely. Teach your children the importance of not sharing personal information online, like their age or personal address. Major social networking sites provide information on privacy settings for their network, and many have resources to help parents keep their children using their site safely. (Find some of these website listed in the resources below)
  4. Teach your children about cyberbullying: they need to know how to be respectful online and also what to do if they encounter cyberbullying. 
    You have likely heard about cyberbullying in the news, through teachers and from other parents, but have you actually talked to your children about cyberbullying? Firstly, make sure to teach your children what cyberbullying is and why is it important to be respectful online. It is much easier to spread cruel messages or images online when you cannot see the impact that it is having on the victim, but cyberbullying is bullying and can be devastating to the victim. Secondly, ensure that your children can identify cyberbullying when it is happening, and know to go to a trusted adult about the issue.
  5. Make sure your children know they can come to you with questions, concerns or problems.
    As mentioned above, your children need to know that they can come to you with any concerns or questions, or a trusted adult, like a teacher. Creating a safe space for them to come to you with their problems will encourage them to tell you about issues like cyberbullying or online sexual harassment early, hopefully catching the issue before it grows.

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