How to Keep Children Safe Online

Many young people, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, have consoles such as Xbox, Wii or PlayStation that enables them to interact with other players and play games with friends – as well as complete strangers. 

Not only can they access games on these consoles, but they are also able to download, either free of charge or for a small fee, games onto Smartphones or tablets. It is very easy to spend many hours playing games. As a person strives to achieve a higher level in the game, so they become addictive.

It is all too easy to get engrossed in online games such as Roblox and Minecraft. Games played in the virtual world offer young people an escape from the real world and create a world that in the physical world would be out of bounds or impossible to explore. Identities can be altered so you can never be sure if the person you are playing online with is who they say they are. 

Most games that young people are playing are above their age level and intended for an older audience who can not only expose them to bad language, sex scenes and violence but also exposes them to older people who assume that the person they are playing with is the correct age as described on the games labelling. This has the potential to introduce young people to older adults who are far more experienced in playing games than they are and places them at risk of being groomed or bullied and due to lack of experience, they may get involved in a situation that they do not know how to get out of. Levels of games are set for a reason, and it is advisable to take note of them to safeguard young people. 

Protecting children from the potential risks associated with internet usage is crucial for responsible parenting in the digital age. Here are some effective strategies for parents to safeguard their children when it comes to accessing devices and using the internet at home: 

Open Communication: Foster an open and honest dialogue with your children about internet safety. Encourage them to share their online experiences, concerns, and questions. Establishing trust will make it easier for them to come to you with any issues they may encounter.

Set Clear Rules and Boundaries: Establish well-defined rules regarding screen time, appropriate websites, and online activities. Clearly communicate these rules to your children and reinforce the importance of adhering to them. Consistency is key in maintaining boundaries. 

Use Parental Controls: Leverage parental control tools and software available on devices and internet routers. These tools allow you to manage and restrict your child’s access to certain websites, apps, and content. You can also set time limits for device usage.

Educate About Online Risks: Equip your children with knowledge about potential online dangers such as online bullying, inappropriate content, and online predators. Teach them to recognise warning signs and what actions to take if they feel uncomfortable or threatened. 

Model Responsible Behaviour: Children often learn by example. Demonstrate responsible online behaviour by using technology mindfully and respectfully. This includes setting a positive example regarding sharing personal information and engaging in healthy online interactions. 

Create a Safe Online Environment: Encourage your children to use age-appropriate platforms and applications. Be involved in helping them create strong, unique passwords and guide them on the importance of privacy settings on social media.

Monitor Online Activities: Regularly check your child’s online activities. This doesn’t mean invading their privacy but maintaining a general awareness of the sites they visit and the people they interact with online. Be vigilant for any red flags. 

Teach Critical Thinking Skills: Empower your children with critical thinking skills to evaluate online content. Teach them how to verify information, question the credibility of sources, and be sceptical of clickbait or sensational content. 

Encourage Offline Activities: Promote a healthy balance between online and offline activities. Encourage hobbies, sports, and social interactions that don’t involve screens. This helps in preventing excessive screen time and promotes overall well-being. 

Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about the latest online trends, apps, and games popular among children. This knowledge will help you anticipate potential risks and engage in informed conversations with your children. 

By combining these strategies, parents can create a supportive and safe digital environment for their children while allowing them to explore and learn responsibly on the internet.

Guest blog post written by Linda James MBE Founder/CEO BulliesOut 

A young child using a laptop.