Safer Internet Day is coming up and it’s something the parents at my son’s school have been debating for the past few weeks. It’s such an important subject that needs to be addressed.  It terrifies me how easily my five year old can navigate not just an iPad but my desktop at home!

I asked Hannah at Childnet to guide us through making life a bit safer for our children on the World Wide Web.

Brush up on your digital parenting skills this Safer Internet Day

As the latest research finds two thirds of 3-7 year olds in the UK have access to a tablet at home, many parents are feeling increasingly out of their depth when it comes to technology. We catch up with the UK Safer Internet Centre on Safer Internet Day to find out how parents can ensure their children have a safe and positive time online.

Children love playing games online, and they are accessing the internet through different technologies at school or at home at a younger and younger age. When parents read negative stories about online risks in the media, it is no wonder that they can sometimes feel overwhelmed and struggle to know how to keep their children safe on the internet.

On the 10th of February, millions of people across the UK and globally will celebrate ‘Safer Internet Day’. Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre, the day is a great opportunity for parents to talk to their children about the safe and positive use of technology. This year’s theme is ‘Let’s create a better internet together’ and it focusses on how to be a good friend online so that everyone has a positive experience on the internet. Schools, organisations and companies are getting involved and are ‘sharing a smile’ and doing ‘digital good deeds’ to make the internet community a kinder place.

Internet safety is not only important on Safer Internet Day. It is an ongoing conversation and there are many things that parents can do to support their children online. In the same way that children are taught how to safely cross the road, children do need help in safely surfing the web. There are real advantages in making sure that children are supported in their internet use right from the start, to establish good behaviour patterns while their use of technology is in formation. Here are some top tips from the UK Safer Internet Centre to help you help your child navigate the web safely.

  1. Talk to your children

The best way to keep your family safe online, and to understand your children’s internet use, is to use the internet together. Take time to explore the games and services that your children are using, or want to use, and look out for any safety features that may be available. Ask them what do they like playing online and why. This will give you a better understanding of the different ways that children are engaging with technology and help you to feel more confident, as well as providing opportunities to pass on some helpful tips to your child. Why not use Childnet’s great resources for young children, including storybooks, apps and a quiz about the SMART Rules of internet safety! Visit www.childnet.com/young-people/primary.

  1. Create a family agreement

Creating a family agreement is a useful step, which might include time spent online, sites that can be visited, and behaviour expected; remember, what’s right and wrong offline is also right and wrong online. It’s a great idea to agree these rules from the outset, so that you and your children are aware of their boundaries.

  1. Provide safety strategies

Make sure that your children know that they can come and talk to you (without necessarily getting into trouble) if they see anything that worries them on the internet, and encourage them to feel confident enough to do so. Encourage your children never to share personal information or passwords as their ‘online friends’ may not be who they say they are. Ensure they know where to find the blocking and reporting tools on the sites and services they use. Other immediate strategies to deal with unwanted content or contact could include; switch the screen off, close the laptop, exit the website, or turn the iPad or smartphone over and put it down.

  1. Consider filters and parental controls

While an open dialogue with your child about internet safety is key, there are lots of tools available that can help reduce the chances of exposure to inappropriate content for your children. You could consider free filters from your home internet service provider (such as BT or TalkTalk) which block age inappropriate content for children. There are also a range of parental control tools available on many devices like tablets, games consoles and smartphones. As children grow and develop, so do their online needs, therefore you may want to periodically review your parental controls to accommodate this. Visit www.saferinternet.org.uk/parents to find up-to-date guides about parental controls.

Safe surfing this Safer Internet Day

To get involved in celebrating Safer Internet Day, follow #SID2015 on social media or visit www.saferinternetday.org.uk for lots of great resources, including:

The key message from Safer Internet Day 2015 is that a better internet is #Up2Us – we all play a crucial role in creating a kinder, safer online community for young people. Parents play a particularly important role in this, and getting things off on the right foot with young children can make all the difference.

For more information and advice on how to keep your child safe online, check out the parent’s and carer’s section at the UK Safer Internet Centre www.saferinternet.org.uk.

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