How to make the internet safe for your child.

Being safe and being well are interdependent. So, in honour of Safer Internet Day (9th February), we caught up with a couple of experts to find out how to make the internet safe and fun for children.

Liane Katz, CEO of MAMA.codes kids’ coding, and a champion for online safety and digital wellbeing for families.

“Even before the pandemic, screen time was a huge worry for parents. This is in terms of ensuring their children were staying safe online. Or keeping their digital time in balance with other activities. So it’s increasingly important that we do all that we can to make the internet safe for children”.

“Now, opportunities to socialise and exercise are reduced due to Covid restrictions. Remote learning is requiring kids to spend many more hours per day on a screen. So it’s important to consider how you can agree on some family rules around healthy digital habits. I like to involve children in agreeing these boundaries which helps avoid power struggles. This helps children to self-regulate without us parents constantly nagging!

“However young your child is, try to have a calm factual conversation about how much screen time is sensible, healthy and reasonable per day. Highlight some of the reasons we don’t want them to have too much. Some families like to agree one limit for ‘school nights’ and another for weekends and holidays.

Phrases like this can aid age-appropriate conversations:
  • We need to rest our eyes and brains from screens for a couple of hours before bedtime or they can get confused and try to keep us awake! 
  • Playing games is too exciting for brains and our bodies so we can’t do it for too long. 
  • We know that playing with other people in the real world and getting plenty of exercise and fresh air is really important so we just need to make sure that our screen time doesn’t get in the  way of that. 
  • Can we agree you can only play on the iPad on a school day after you have done your homework and played outside?
A group of children sitting with mobile phones and accessing the internet and games

“There are very real potential harms for children spending unsupervised and unmoderated time online, including inappropriate content, contact with unsafe adults, oversharing of personal data and images and online bullying, but with the right safeguards and education in place, the digital world can be overwhelmingly positive, educational and entertaining for children.

All screen time is not created equal and there are many creative, brain boosting activities children can access online, which enable them to create with technology not just consume it. This creator mindset is an important element of putting children in charge of screens rather than the other way round.

These “positive screen time” choices include coding, creating and editing videos, stop animation, photography projects and creating digital books and designs, even Minecraft. I prefer to load up our family devices with plenty of these positive choices to encourage the children to be discerning and choose high quality digital experiences over the mindless high adrenalin games.

This way we can all feel less guilty about the screen time we do allow, and ensure our children keep talking to us about what they are doing and seeing online.”

Carly Yoost, CEO of Child Rescue Coalition a nonprofit organisation that rescues children from sexual abuse by building technology for law enforcement, free of charge, to track, arrest and prosecute child predators. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created never before experienced societal challenges. Reports continue to show a surge in predators distributing Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) online. While we are all forced to spend more time at home, children are spending more time on the internet. Predators are exploiting these opportunities – in many cases at home with their victims but also carrying out online grooming and exploitation – and child abuse has certainly increased.

While adhering to the recommended guidelines of staying home and practicing social distancing, we need to give ourselves a break from the typical parenting guilt of screen-time restrictions. We need to use everything available to us to keep our kids happy, educated, and free from illness. This will undoubtedly include more time on devices and staying connected socially.

Child Rescue coalition statistics on the amount of children they have protected and predators they have stopped
Child Rescue Coalition February 2020

Keeping our kids safe is an important responsibility we have as parents. This is a wonderful time to be educating children about the importance of online safety.

A great way to do this is to use devices WITH your children, get a better understanding of places they go online and know that with the right tools, your children can learn and explore online with less risk of danger. Let’s use this time at home to reinforce safe internet guidelines.” 

Take a look at these tips and resources with your children to learn about ways you can help them:

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