Children of all ages have been spending more time online than ever before. With lockdown schooling, online has been how they learn and how they communicate with their friends almost exclusively. As parents, we’ve all been a little concerned about how this might affect their mental health, and if they’re staying safe and taking appropriate online precautions. Here’s our tips for keeping your children safe online.
One of the biggest worries for parents is the impact of social media and mental health, especially in teens. Considering that studies have found that teens spend around three hours per day browsing social media on their phones, it’s little wonder that we get concerned about what they’re looking at.
These studies have also found that not all social media platforms affect teens in the same way. For example, YouTube was seen to be a largely positive platform, while other platforms like Instagram and Snapchat can have a much more negative impact on mental health.
These tips can help you keep your teen safe online.
- Encourage open conversations about online safety. In some cases, your teen may know more about online security than you do, so encourage those conversations. Ask them how they stay safe online. Ask if they have experienced cyberbullying, and what they would do if they did.
- Set time limits. Talk to your teen about social media use and make a plan with them. Studies have shown that people who use platforms for ten minute per platform per day tend to have better self-image. Discuss with your teenager when the best time in their day would be and enforce the rules you come up with.
- Model good social media habits. Children of all ages tend to copy what their parents do, so make sure that your own social media habits aren’t at odds with what you’re trying to teach your child.
- Remind your teen that what you see on social media isn’t always real. Photos may be filtered, and statuses may be completely made up. However, you should also remind them that social media has a feedback effect. If you post positive things, you will likely get positive feedback, while if you post negative things, you’re probably going to get negative feedback.
Children, specifically pre-teens, often want to do what older children are doing. They want to feel grown up, and internet use, social media, chat forums, and in-game chat can play a huge part of that. These tips can help with your child’s online safety.
- Set rules on what sites your child can visit. Depending on the age of your children, you may want to include them in these conversations. For younger children, you should set the rules, but you should consider involving your pre-teen in making rules. Decide what sites you feel are appropriate, and which ones you don’t want your child accessing. You should also set out rules on chat forums, in-game chat functions. Make sure that your child understands that they should never give out any personal information online.
- Set parental controls on your internet. You can use your internet provider’s help pages to help you set restricted websites.
- Keep internet devices in an open area. Any device that your child uses online should only be used in a common area of the house.
- Set time limits. Limiting the amount of time your child can spend online is really important, but you may want to consider that there are differences between recreational screen time, and screen time for education. As so much of all of our lives has been online for the last year, technology has been how children attend school, do their homework, and talk to their school friends.
- Set up a family email address. You should have a family email address for your child to use when they’re registering with any sites, so you can see who they’re passing this information to and monitor it. You should also have a list of all their online accounts and passwords.
Technology has become such a huge part of our lives, and children are using it at increasingly younger ages.
- Age is important. Little ones under two don’t need any screen time. You may want to allow them to video call relatives, but beyond that, there is no real benefit in the average under two-year-old using devices, or the internet.
- Look for quality apps and sites. Little ones over two may get a lot of benefit from using devices, but you need to look for high quality apps and sites designed specifically for that age group.
- Limit the amount of time spent on devices. The time limit will largely depend on the age of your little one, but most experts recommend a limit of no more than 30 minutes per day.