While the internet can be a place of entertainment, learning and fun for kids, it also has a dark side. So how do you make sure your kids stay safe online?
Cyber safety consultant Brett Lee has travelled to some of far north Queensland’s most remote communities to teach parents and relatives how to make sure kids stay safe on the internet.
Mr Lee pulls no punches in his approach to internet safety and said adults who claim they know too little about computers to monitor their children’s online habits are kidding themselves.
“When I talk to adults and carers, particularly grandparents, I encourage them to draw on the skills and the knowledge they already have,” he said.
“We can make incredible inroads and reduce [online] risks to nearly zero just by employing a few strategies and mindsets that we already posses.”
Five tips for online safety
- 1. Talk to children
Mr Lee said first and foremost parents, grandparents and carers need to keep the lines of communication open with the children in their care.
“Never underestimate the value of knowing how kids are going just by having a simple face-to-face conversation,” he said.
“The internet can instil the belief that it is a private environment but we can change that by talking to our kids by talking to our kids about what’s happening online.”
- 2. Clear rules and boundaries
Although they may not like it, children need to be set clear rules and boundaries about what sites or programs they are allowed to access, when they are allowed online and who they can talk to.
“Kids are used to rules and boundaries because they have them in every other aspect of their life,” Mr Lee said.
“Whether they feel it or not, it helps them. It helps take away the responsibility for them to have to have to make the decision on their own when it comes to technology.
“We shouldn’t step back or feel guilty about putting [rules] in place when it comes to technology. Kids are ready for it; we just need to put it in place.”
- 3. Stay up to date
Mr Lee admits staying up to date with applications and programs is not the most popular of tips with many adults, but it is not as difficult as some people make out.
“This is not about staying up to date with technology because we can’t do that – some of us don’t have an interest, a lot of us don’t have time,” he said.
“It’s more about staying up to date with the technology that applies to our family.
“Staying up to date is about talking to the kids, talking to other adults and talking to the school because they know the trends with programs and can give us some advice.”
- 4. Consider parental controls
By installing software, programs or applications on a device parents or guardians can monitor online activity, block access to certain sites, set time limits on the device’s connection to the internet and be alerted to concerning usage or conversations happening on the device.
“This is great for young children,” Mr Lee said.
“Some parents and grandparents say to me ‘it’s like I’m spying on my children, they’re going to say I don’t trust them’ but this isn’t about spying on our children. This is about being comfortable in ourselves knowing that everything is going okay.
“We’re spying on other people and we’re spying on activity that may come into our home through that device.”
- 5. You make the final decision
No matter what level of computer literacy or technological understanding an adult has, it is up to an adult to have the final say about a child’s access to the internet.
“It does not matter who owns the device and it does not matter who knows the most about technology,” Mr Lee said.
“If we feel something needs to be put in place or said, we do it.
“We are the ones who make the final choice.”