Keeping kids safe online

Mother hugging young son while using the laptop

Here are eight easy ways to help your kids stay out of trouble in cyberspace.

At a glance

  • Don't let your child post photos of themselves wearing their school uniform – it can be enough to identify your child's school.
  • Ensure your child never organises to meet up with any strangers they have met online.
  • Talk about what websites are appropriate with your child so they understand and make the right choice.
  • By publishing without thinking, your child's innocent work online may be something that comes back later to haunt them.
  • If your child starts being secretive about what they are doing online, check it out.
  1. Keep computers out in the open
    Your child may think twice about looking at inappropriate websites and won't be able to chat to their friends all night while you think they are doing their homework.
  2. Mind your business
    Remind your child to keep information such as their name, address, phone number, school and even your credit card number to themselves. When signing up to a chat room, they should use a screen name that is a nickname and not easy to work out. The same goes for choosing passwords – don't make them easy to figure out. If your child is going to put photos on the internet, ensure they don't show them wearing their school uniform – this can be enough to identify your child's school. Also ensure that any photos are not the type that would attract unwanted attention from strangers.
  3. Just because it's on the internet, it doesn't mean it's true
    Make sure your child uses multiple sources for research, and is careful not to plagiarise.
  4. Stranger danger is online, too
    Ensure your child never organises to meet up with any strangers they have met online. If they really want to meet up, encourage them to talk to you about it first and insist on going along with them. Remind your children to also be wary opening emails from strangers. They could contain spam (online junk mail), a virus (which will harm your computer), or be from a stranger looking for trouble.
  5. Get a filter
    Internet filters can help block inappropriate sites for children.  None are completely reliable and it's best if you talk about what websites are appropriate with your child so they understand and make the right choice on their own.
  6. Encourage your child to talk with you about their online experiences – good and bad
    This will make it easier for them if they see something inappropriate or are emailed something unsuitable. If they are embarrassed to tell you, persuade them to at least tell a teacher or another trusted adult.
  7. Good manners also exist online
    Talk about this with your child and it may lead to a decline in bullying behaviour, not to mention the many disagreements that children have with each other.
  8. Forever is a long time
    A lot of blogs and websites maintain information as part of cyberspace forever. By publishing without thinking of the future, your child's innocent work online may be something that comes up later on and may negatively impact their career and personal life.

Danger signs

  • Your child constantly sits on the computer in chat rooms or instant messaging, from straight after school to very late at night.
  • Your child begins showing unexplained money or items that come from "a friend you don't know".
  • Your child starts being secretive about what they are doing online – this could include anything from minimising screens as you walk past, to not letting you see their blogs/chat/social media sites.

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