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How to keep your young people internet safe!

School's out for Summer! It’s always best to be prepared during the Summer holidays, and without the distraction of school, internet usage for many young people can increase all the way up to September. We want to help parents and carers with a realistic approach to help keep their young people safe when using the internet, social media, and playing online games.

Talking regularly with the young person is the greatest tool to help keep them safe online. Talking regularly and making it part of daily conversation, like you would about their day at school, will help the young person feel relaxed. It also means when they do have any worries, they’re more likely to come and speak to you. It can, however, be easy to become overwhelmed with the different technology, the language that children use, and the huge number of games and apps which are available along with their potential risks.

What you can do to help keep your child safe online

  • Do not allow a child or young person to sign up to any social media accounts for which they are under age. Your young person will be much safer online and they are much less likely to see any inappropriate content

  • If your young person has a social media account, if you follow them, you will be able to see the content they put out and engage with. You will also be better equipped in helping to guide them. Beware, though, that privacy settings allow any user to exclude any other user from viewing their content, without that user having a way to know about it.

  • Discuss the positive and negative elements of social media and always remind them to think before they share.

  • Regularly discuss with the young person the importance of letting you know who they are connecting with and not to purchase anything online without gaining your permission first.

  • Regularly remind the young person they should only connect online with friends and family they know in the physical world and not to accept requests from strangers.

  • Always let the young person know that they should say if they see or hear anything online that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable and to never arrange to meet someone who they have met online. It is inevitable that people on the Internet, both friends and strangers alike, are going to be unkind or unpleasant. Make sure young people are aware that the best options are to simply block, mute, or report such instances and not get drawn in. Preferably all of the above!

  • If you are concerned with anything your young person has seen or been asked to do, please contact your Social Worker who can advise on the next steps.

The dangers of having a social media account when under age

Example: If a child is 7 but says they are 14 when they sign up for an account.

Potential Dangers Now:

  • They get used to lying when signing up to other apps and websites.

  • They may get friend requests from older children.

However, in 4 years time when the child becomes 11, their profile will indicate that they are 18, an adult.

Potential Dangers:

  • They will get friend requests from adults.

  • They will see adverts targeted at adults.

  • They will see content for 18+

Tackling difficult conversations

Some conversations are going to be more difficult than others, but it's so important to have these open and honest conversations, so you can help your child with any worries or issues they might be facing online.

For example, if you’re worried that they have been viewing adult websites, sharing inappropriate content, have seen upsetting, inappropriate or explicit content, or perhaps being bullied. These more difficult conversations will heighten feelings of fear, anxiety, worry, shame and embarrassment. As with any conversation, it is important that we try to stay calm, balanced and non-judgemental.

If it's something that has made you angry, fearful or concerned, don’t tackle it straight away, if possible. Those feelings will affect the way we talk. Take a little time and, if possible, talk to someone else about it. Your child’s school can be a great source of information, particularly the class teacher and the Designated Safeguarding Lead and you can also always contact us for advice.

Don’t be too forceful, otherwise there is the risk that they will close down. Consider a subtle approach instead of a head-on approach. For example, you could ask if the subject is discussed at school and what they learn about it, or it could be something that has been on the TV or you heard about it on the radio. Keep listening, try not to interrupt even if there is a period of silence. They may be thinking about how to word something.

Provide context. Allow them to understand why some things are wrong, age inappropriate or even illegal. In order to critically think and assess, they need information. Remind them of your values; some people may think that something is okay for their children, but explain why you don’t think it is appropriate for them. Children often talk of being punished. For example, if they open up to you and say that they have seen explicit content by accident, they are fearful of their devices being removed from them. This is seen as a punishment and consequence for something that was out of their control. This is a judgement call that needs to be carefully handled.

If you have any concerns about your young people, you can contact your social worker for guidance and advice and what to do next.

We hope you all have a great summer holidays making lots of new memories, going on adventures and having days out together.

Rebecca Smith

Recruitment Manager for Parallel Parents

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