The team at SafeToNet share their tips for helping keep young people safer online

If this year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of communication technology and how to stay connected to the people we love as we confront this Pandemic.  And as Christmas draws closer, there has never been a better time to gift a new smartphone, tablet or other portable devices.

But when it comes to giving children mobile devices, society is divided. Some parents give their children all the technology they need knowing that without it, their children could fall behind and become isolated in the short-term and marginalised or excluded from employment opportunities in the long-term. Others restrict their children’s access completely, pointing to the incidents of harm young people can experience as they venture online.

The technology dilemma for parents is really quite simple; some parents are life savvy but tech naïve, while children are tech savvy but life naïve. The challenge has been to find a middle ground position, where children are free to explore all the great things the internet has to offer, while parents are at ease knowing they will be alerted if their child is veering towards risk or getting into difficulties.

Thankfully, due to innovation and advances in technology, the online safety dilemma for parents can now be a thing of the past. Innovative software can be installed on mobile devices that educate your children in real-time and steer them away from harm.

For parents who don’t want to leave it all to the software, here are eight additional things you can do to make your home technology-friendly and safer for everyone.

1) Agree a Family Contract

If you have not already done so, gifting a new device will be the perfect time to sit down with your family and come up with a contract/house agreement. Family contracts are a great way to foster and encourage positive, responsible behaviour in an atmosphere of mutual respect and responsibility. Teenagers engage enthusiastically in this process, so be warned, you might get some interesting feedback and gain insights into your child’s view of the world. Providing you stick to whatever is agreed and enforce it, the family contract can actually strengthen the parent/child relationship. There are some great examples of contract templates you can use online but be sure to make it fun!

2) Become Cyber Curious

Ask your child to teach you how to play the latest video game they are into or get them to show you how different Apps work and what they do. The reason we suggest you do this is to;

  • Learn about your child’s cyber life and how they use the internet
  • Keep pace with your child’s rapidly changing world
  • Keep yourself up to speed on the latest Apps, and how they work so you can identify any potential risks ahead of time
  • Make conversations with your child about their online activities a natural and normal everyday occurrence

3) Limit screen time

Switch your devices off during the night and ideally leave them in a box in your kitchen. This will ensure your child is not distracted by notifications during the night.

4) Prepare for FaceTime

Set up an area in your home for facetime and video calls with non-family members. The best place for this will be somewhere you or your child will have their back to a wall. Be aware of what others can see in the background of your video calls. Be conscious that people you do not know can see your room, home and others around you.

5) Get Dressed

Ensure children are dressed appropriately for video chat, in the designated area within your home.

6) Check-in with your children

Don’t let your child withdraw with their phone for long periods of time without checking in on them.

7) Don’t be that person

Never take a smartphone or mobile device to the bathroom. Aside the risk of it getting water damage, there is a chance you might not have logged out of that zoom meeting or online class correctly, or you could have accidentally pushed the ‘Go Live’ link on Facebook. Someone will share it and make your mistake go viral. If it helps as a reminder, place a basket or box near the bathroom where you can leave the device while you go about your private business.

8) Go to the Thinkuknow website

It’s packed with tips, information, guidance and videos for both parents and children around online safety.

Selected phones at Chitter Chatter now include access to SafeToNet, a safeguarding app for children using mobile phones, you'll find them all here.  If you have question about buying a phone for a child or setting up your own phone to be more child-friendly, feel free to message us on Facebook or contact us here.

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