You may already have some control over your child’s internet use. Perhaps you only allow them to use certain sites, only use the internet where you can see them or block WiFi at certain times of day.
Whether or not you have controls in place, it’s always worth taking a bit of time to look at what other controls are available to help protect your child online.
Find out about or recap on safety features that children are taught in school (primary as well as secondary). Ask your child to tell you what these are to see what they remember (you might even learn some new ones yourself).
Examples of safe online behaviours they have probably learned include:
- username choices;
- not sharing personal information;
- checking sources of information;
- privacy settings (including friend/follow requests, photos and tagging permissions).
If a child is upset by something or experiences bullying, for example, teaching includes areas like:
- and reporting (to an adult, and also using in-app reporting routes).
Instead of saying:
“You shouldn’t be using your real name!”; “You mustn’t post photos.”
“What did school teach you/Did school teach you about the kind of information that’s safe or unsafe to post?”;
“Is it safe to use your full name? What could you use instead?”; “That’s a good username – it suits you but is still safe.”; “Have you checked with X that she’s ok with you posting that photo of the two of you?”; “That celebrity uses their real name because using social media is part of their job.”
Discuss and agree on privacy settings for the platforms and apps your child uses, and on more general settings for the family. Make sure you explain to your child why you prefer particular controls, want to apply new ones, or why you might restrict use of a particular app.
If your child understands the reasons behind the decision, they are more likely to accept and respect it, and be open to applying restrictions themselves as they get older and they become more independent in their internet use.
Instead of saying:
“You’re not downloading that.”; “You’re not using that app.”; “X said that app was dangerous.”; “Make sure you’ve put on all the privacy settings.”
“The reason I don’t want you to you use that app is because…”; “I need to find out more about that app before you download it.”; “Shall we have a look at the settings together and work out which are best/will keep you safest?”; “I should use that setting on my account too.”
Different types of setting
Find out about and be clear on the different settings and controls that are available and how they can be used. Examples are:
- Settings within apps that your child is using (‘privacy controls’ or ‘privacy settings’ which will also include data use). These will give different levels of security according to the user’s choice, such as tagging, sharing and authentication of follower requests.
- Settings on devices generally, such as location services, or access permissions given to different downloaded apps. These can be changed within the device and tailored for individual apps.
- Settings attached to your broadband supplier (e.g. ‘parental controls’) where you can filter which types of site and content can be accessed, the extent of what is filtered, or filtering at particular times of day.
- Third party apps which you can install on a device to add another layer of security. Features might include monitoring of use, time limits for games and call or mobile phone tracking. There are a variety of apps to choose from, but they are not all free to use.
The sites linked to in the Learn about platforms
section give details about the privacy settings for different social media apps and platforms. Internet Matters has step-by-step guides for all types of parental controls, including those for every broadband provider, here.