Dr Maite Ferrin, is renowned internationally for her work in treating Children and young people. Below she shares her tips on how to help protect children online:
Top Tips to Keep Children Safe Online:
- Talk it Over
Parents need to have open conversations with their children about safe internet use, constantly educating them about the dangers of misuse. Children need to feel comfortable speaking to parents about their online and offline experiences, rather than feeling like they have to hide.
- Ensure Safety
Parents need to be aware of the risks that the internet poses on young people and especially those who are more vulnerable. Children can interact with adults and expose themselves to emotional and sexual abuse. If there are any signs or concern, parents should immediately contact child services and/or the police to report their own safeguarding concerns.
Children should be taught to never give away their personal information such as name, address, age, phone number or school.
- Set Boundaries
Review and agree a list of websites your child is permitted to visit; explaining it is for their own safety. Ensure you checking minimum age limits and monitor their web activity on a regular basis.
- Be involved
Be open and honest with your child, letting them know that you will be checking their online activity. By taking an active interest in their online activity, talking about their favourite websites, online friends and videos, you will be more engaged. In addition you will also be more aware of the risks that your child is being exposed to.
- Communication is Key
Good communication with your children will help reduce the risks of serious incidents online. Those children who have good self-esteem and a solid social network outside the internet are more protected and usually expose themselves less than those who struggle in having social relationships outside the internet. As parents we can improve our children’s social skills by finding activities after school for them. Parents can also make their own children better critics of what they observe on social media; not everything that is shown is real, and not everything that happens in our lives has to be shown on line.
- Time is Up
Set time limits for online activity, whether social media, websites, games consoles or videos. Boundaries should be set and enforced, to help avoid addiction and to safeguard against misuse.
- Digital Detox
Set an example to your children by unplugging. Regularly dedicate device-free time to encourage conversation and maintain close relationships without distraction.
- Don’t Prohibit
As parents we can´t protect our children from all the risks in life, but we can minimise the risks. It is inevitable that our children will eventually suffer a bad experience at some point, but try to use each negative experience as a lesson rather than criticise or punish your child. Prohibiting internet use may have a consequential negative impact on their self-esteem and social lives, so it’s advisable to restrict rather than prohibit (which may also encourage children to hide their activity).
- What to do if your child has a bad online experience
The younger the child, the bigger the impact of a negative experience will be. Further, the younger the child (or the more vulnerable) the higher the risks as they won’t be able to manage the risks appropriately. Younger and vulnerable children generally need higher levels of supervision and protection from adults.
Dr Maite Ferrin is a Consultant Psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health.