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Be Share Aware: Helping your child to stay safe online

To children, online life is real life. They've never known the world without the internet, and need guidance to stay safe online. The NSPCC and O2’s Share Aware campaign encourages families to work as a team and make internet safety a priority

We’ve pulled together some top tips to ensure online safety is given the attention it deserves in your home.

Talk to your child

It sounds obvious, but it's really important to make children 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. Explain that if they wouldn't do this, then why would they post personal information on their social media profiles for everyone to see? 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.

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.

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.

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 to clear your browser history if you're looking at content you don't think is age appropriate. You can also set filters to block certain websites. Always take advantage of parental control features.

Get the family involved

Sit down as a family and listen to your child's point of view. New social media apps crop up all the time and it is important to know what sites they prefer. Make sure you 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 are suitable for your children and how to change the privacy settings on them.

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.

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. Also, 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.

Online safety is a team effort

Keep this acronym in mind to ensure your family stays safe online:

  • T is for Talk: Having open, honest and regular conversations with your child is the best way to ensure they’re safe. You also need to be talking about the right things – warnings about strangers may have filtered through, but other risks like sharing location settings may be less obvious.
  • E is for Explore: Do you know your Kik from your Kiwi? Maybe not, but your child probably does. Sit down together and find out what they like doing online and remember to look at Net Aware for popular sites among kids.
  • A is for Agree: Agree family rules about what is and isn’t OK together, and remember it works both ways. You can download a family agreement template from Share Aware.
  • M is for Manage: There are simple technical steps that can help to keep your child safe online – mainly by you managing the privacy settings and controls. Safe search settings can be great for inquisitive kids.

For further information or on specific issue call the free O2 and NSPCC Online Safety Helpline on 0808 800 5002, or pop into an O2 store and book a free Guru appointment.