As we all know, the online world has the potential to be a tool to explore great learning and wider opportunities, but also to be a place of danger and fear. In our ongoing efforts to nurture positive and safe use of the internet, it goes without saying that this is only fully effective if we can do so in full cooperation with parents and guardians.
The following guidelines and links will enable you to access up-to-date information to help keep your child safe in the online world.
With so many other activities for children curtailed at present, it’s now more important than ever to have conversations about their online safety and learn about what steps you can take to protect them
Some tips for keeping your child safe online
It’s harder to stay connected with our friends and family right now, so you may be sharing more images and videos of our children online via social media. But before you do, there are some important things to consider. Read sharing pictures of your children for info on how to protect your younger, or older child whilst staying social.
Using devices like phones and tablets to share pictures and videos can be a fun way for children to have fun and stay in touch with friends and family online. It’s really important your child knows what’s ok to share online and what they should check with you first. Read younger children sharing pictures or videos online for more information on the risks and how to support safer sharing.
Personal information is any information that can be used to identify your child. Sharing personal information online is easy and sometimes children, like adults, might share more online than they would offline, which can be risky. Read your child's personal information and how to protect it online for information and advice.
Online games are social activities, and most have features that allow children to chat with others whilst they play. For information about the positives of gaming, the risks of in-game chat and measures you can take to help protect them, watch this short video: In-game chat: a guide for parents and carers
The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating system can be a useful tool to help you decide what online games are appropriate for your child. For more information on the PEGI system and other factors to consider before deciding what’s suitable, read Gaming: what's appropriate for your child
Gaming is popular with both children and adults and can help to cure that lockdown boredom! If your child is gaming, you may have some questions about how to keep them safer. If so, check out - gaming: what parents need to know.
For a guide on the apps, sites and games your child might enjoy, visit: Net Aware.
We would strongly advise that children should not be using apps or playing games that are not age appropriate.
If you would like more information on any of the apps or games mentioned, Commonsensemedia.org provides parent guides for all the latest titles and trends.
From animals doing funny things, to slime-making and game-tutorials, the internet has lots of fun videos for children to enjoy. But the amount and availability of content online means that children may see something inappropriate. To understand what type of content might not be suitable and advice on how to help your child watch safely, watch this short video guide.
The internet is a public and open space where anyone can post and share content. This can be fun and entertaining for children, but it does mean your child may see something that is intended for adults. Find out what to do if you're worried your child might see something inappropriate online or what to do if they already have.
Children love to watch videos and YouTube is always a firm favourite! But sometimes children can be exposed to videos that are not meant for them. YouTube Kids is a safer way for children to explore their interests. You can find more information about this on YouTube: what parents need to know.
Remember, primary-age children should be supervised at all times when online.
Chatting, being kind and making friends online
Primary-age children may not have previously had much experience with video chatting apps such as zoom, FaceTime and Skype, but may well be using them now for education or to keep in touch with family and friends. To make sure your child has a positive experience video chatting online, read this guide for parents and carers
The internet has many positive opportunities for children to learn and play, but it can also be used in negative and unkind ways. It’s really important to speak to your child about being kind online, and how they can get help if they see or hear anything that makes them feel worried, scared or sad.
Use these conversation starters to help your child understand the importance of being kind online.
The term ‘online friend’ can be used to describe people you only know through the internet, or those that you also know offline. Some children make friends online by meeting new people through online platforms such as gaming sites. To help children have positive online friendships, read this handy guide.
The Department of Education Northern Ireland
DENI, has produced an award-winning Safer Schools App to support parents and carers to keep children in their care safer online. This is an excellent resource which has access to information on the popular social media platforms and provides an insight on critical issues such as bullying, sexting and gaming, along with easy to follow advice on how they can make their homes and the devices they give their children safer. Safer Schools Northern Ireland – Ineqe Safeguarding Group
Getting the screen time balance
Screen time can offer children opportunities to learn and develop new skills at the touch of a button but like anything, too much of it can have a negative effect on their wellbeing.
Effect on behaviour
Effect on the brain
Effect on sleep
Steps you can take to help keep your child safer online
Parental controls have been designed to help you manage your child's online activities. There are various types, some of which are free but others which can be bought. However, nothing is totally fool proof so they shouldn't replace the need for you to support and advise your child using the internet. For more information and step by step instructions on setting up parental controls, visit Parental Controls & Privacy Settings Guides - Internet Matters.
Supervise their online activity:
Keep the devices your child uses in communal areas of the house such as the living room or kitchen, where an adult is able to supervise. Primary-age children should not access the internet in private spaces alone, such as in a bedroom or bathroom.
Explore together and chat little and often:
Ask your child to show you their favourite apps, games and sites and encourage them to teach you how to use these. Ask them if anything ever worries them online. Make sure they know they won’t be in trouble and can get help by talking to you or another adult they trust if anything happens online that makes them feel worried, sad or scared.
Make sure they know where to go for support:
Remind your child they can always speak to you or an adult they trust if anything happens online that makes them feel worried or upset. For a breakdown of report services, visit: Supporting your child with reporting unwanted content online
Take a look at Thinkuknow:
Thinkuknow is the national online safety education programme from the National Crime Agency. Thinkuknow offers learning activities, advice and support for children and young people aged 4-18 and their families. The Jessie & Friends animations for 4 to 7s will help you start a conversation about online safety and for 8-10’s, there’s the Play Like Share animations and the Band Runner game and advice website
Help your child identify trusted adults who can help them if they are worried:
This includes you and other adults at home, as well as adults from wider family, school or other support services who they are able to contact at this time. Encourage them to draw a picture or write a list of their trusted adults.
Talk about how their online actions affect others:
If your child is engaging with others online, remind them to consider how someone else might feel before they post or share something. If they are considering sharing a photo/video of somebody else, they should always ask permission first.
Most web search engines will have a ‘SafeSearch’ function, which will allow you to limit the content your child can access whilst online. Look out for the ‘Settings’ button on your web browser homepage, which is often shaped like a small cog. Visit Thinkuknow.co.uk/parents for more information on keeping your child safer online.
Lead by example
Just like anything, children copy their parents’ actions and behaviour. If you set boundaries for your own screen time, it will be easier for your child to do the same.
Set boundaries WITH your child
Get them involved in the process of setting age appropriate limits on how long they can spend online, at what times and on which platforms. Set up screen-free times or rooms where screens are out of sight and therefore more likely to be out of mind. Review these as they get older and give them the space to get greater responsibility for their screen time. An example of a Family Media Agreements can be found at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/family-media-agreement
Ensure a healthy mix of screen activity
Make sure they have a good balance of screen activities that encourage creativity, learning and education, connecting with family and friends as well as using devices for passively engaging with content.
Avoid using screen time as a reward
This will elevate the status of screen time above other activities and like using food as a reward may encourage children to simply want more.
Physical activity and sleep are really important
Make sure screens are not replacing these things by keeping screens out of bedrooms at bed time and that you are creating opportunities for your child to be active each day.
Below are links to screen time age guides to help children get the best out of screen time and adopt a healthy digital diet.