Creating a Safe Space for Children Online

05 April 2022

As technology evolves the percentage of time we spend online is rapidly increasing- and that goes for our children too.  Research by children’s technology firm SuperAwesome found that screen time went up by over 50% during the pandemic. Of course, some of this can be attributed to remote learning, but the remainder represents the general trend of the global population spending increasing amounts of time using the internet.

When it comes to children’s screen time, the main offenders in the streaming world are Netflix and YouTube (according to the same research), and in the gaming sphere, Roblox. Social media apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok are also incredibly popular, with many older children using these to stay connected with friends.

How can you be sure your child is safe online?

It’s impossible to monitor browsing 24/7 — particularly for older children and teenagers. But there’s some advice you can share with them, as well as some practical actions you can take to make their browsing safer.

Remind your child to never:

  • Give out their password, name, address, school name or any personal/family information
  • Agree to meet anyone in person that they’ve met online
  • Fill in a profile that asks for their name and address without asking you
  • Download or install anything on your computer without your permission
  • Never accept an invitation from, or reply to, someone who is unknown — even if you have mutual friends!
  • Don’t accept gifts or offers from brands or influencers

Finally, remind your child that if they’re in ANY doubt, always check with an adult.

It’s a good idea to have a chat about internet safety in general, explaining that people can be anyone they want to be online, and that ‘stranger danger’ exists on the internet too. Reiterate that if they’re talking to someone online who is making them feel uncomfortable, they can end the conversation, or ask an adult for help. This is particularly important for online games like Roblox, where users can ‘friend’ and chat with other users.

It’s also a good idea to warn against posting photos of themselves online and having the privacy settings on their accounts set so they’re not publicly viewable. It’s a difficult line to walk as a parent, particularly with older children, tweens and teenagers who may feel pressured by their peers to have various social media accounts.

Croft Heart Tech Appeal child working on laptop

Practical internet safety tips

It has become the norm for children to have laptops, smart devices and other smart devices before even reaching secondary school. As a parent you’re in an awkward position between looking out for their safety and not wanting to differentiate them from their friends.

One of the best ways to increase safety for your child online is installing a quality router with a filter. Examples include Circle or Google Wi-Fi. You can also set parental controls on a number of apps and browsers. The filter is hardware based, and something that Croft can provide.

After installing this hardware, you can monitor browsing activity 24/7, with the benefit of constant reporting and filters across devices. If your child is using a mobile device remember to leave the age filter in place and consider setting up either Apple Screen Time or Google Family Link. Both of these will allow you to manage the device and control what it can access.

Talking to your child about internet safety is important, but as a parent you need to put the effort in too.

If possible, restrict your child’s internet use to a device in a family room, so you’re aware of what they’re doing online. Again, this may be more difficult with older children who want their privacy and independence!

Google’s Be Internet Legends scheme is a fantastic initiative for parents and children, helping children to become internet savvy in a safe and confident way, through online games, downloadable resources for teaching internet safety, and more.

Finally, a word about cyberbullying. If you suspect your child is a victim of cyberbullying or ‘trolling’ online, it’s important to step in and act as soon as possible. This is as serious as any other form of bullying — sometimes worse as the victim can’t get away from the abuse, and it can have a devastating impact.