Be Share Aware: Helping your child to stay safe online
British children are spending an increasing amount of time online -
and social media is the main draw for many pre-teens and
The key is to find a balance between protecting them and allowing them to find their feet online - so we've gathered some great pointers from the NSPCC, whose Share Aware campaign - for parents of children aged 8-12 - provides support and guidance to keep your children safe online.
1. Talk to your child
It sounds obvious, but it's important to really make your child aware of how public the internet is. Using the analogy of giving their address or phone number to a stranger on the street may help - if they wouldn't do this, then they shouldn't be sharing personal information on their social profiles. The NSPCC has some suggested conversation starters to help.
Make sure the privacy settings on your child's accounts are as tight as they can be - have a look at our social safety page for more information.
2. Vet usernames
A username can hang about in the virtual realm long after the user is bored of it, and could potentially be found by any other internet user. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat - which allow users to choose any screen name - are ones to be aware of here. Remind your child not to reveal personal information in their username, such as their address, full name or date of birth. Again, the stranger-in-the-street scenario might be helpful here.
3. Lay some ground rules
When deciding what rules to set, take the maturity and personality of your child into account and give them as much responsibility as you feel appropriate. Set boundaries; younger children respond well to boundaries and understand rules are there for a reason - often to keep them safe. It's a good idea to review the rules from time to time to make sure they're still relevant.
4. Set an example
Just as any content your kids put online will be publicly viewable, so will your own posts - so it's a good idea to exercise some caution. Would your child really find that Facebook picture of them dressed in their pants as funny as you do?
Remember, too, to clear your browser history if you're looking at content you don't think is age appropriate. You can set filters to block certain websites - find out more.
5. Get the family involved
Sit down as a family and listen to your child's point of view. New ways of
communicating - such as social sharing apps
- appear fairly regularly, so it'll be helpful to you to
hear what kind of technology your child knows about and wants to use. Make
sure you and they are both familiar with the privacy settings, and reinforce
the fact that rules and boundaries have been set for their own safety.
The NSPCC's Net Aware guide provides an overview of all the sites and apps that young people use so you can ensure your knowledge is kept up to date. It can help you decide which sites and apps might be suitable for your child and explains how to change the privacy settings on them.
6. Set limits on newsfeeds
Not all news is good news - sometimes it can be upsetting. If your child is sensitive and you're wary about them reading the papers or watching reports on TV, you should take the same approach with the internet. If potentially upsetting news content is appearing on their social feeds, you should be able to hide or mute it, so it doesn't appear again.
7. A problem shared...
Despite your best efforts, your child might see something online you'd rather they didn't. Let them know they can tell you about anything they're uncomfortable with, and make sure they're aware that, if someone on their friends list is posting inappropriate content, they can unfriend or report them. Reassure them that it isn't their fault if they see something bad that someone else has posted, but if you believe your child may be involved, keep calm and try to get all the details. You can always contact the NSPCC Helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000.
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Last updated: 10 months ago