New research has revealed that over 70% of teenagers spend three or more hours a day using technology for leisure – yet 4 in 10 parents (37%) admit they feel ill-equipped to help protect their children online.
Despite parents having concerns about how much time their child spends online (70%), children see technology as a positive tool, with half of teenagers agreeing that social media and the internet makes them feel less lonely.
Internet Matters is a not for profit organisation that gives information and advice on the main internet safety issues children may be exposed to, and in collaboration with TalkTalk, they’ve put together five top tips to help keep kids safe on the internet.
Take the time to think about what they can view online
Internet Matters recommends that you teach your children to think critically about what they’re seeing online, and to not view everything through rose-tinted spectacles. There may be a deeper story behind a perfectly filtered image!
One way to make sure that your kids don’t click on any harmful websites in the first place is to filter, block and approve sites that their devices have access to – something that only 24% of parents currently do. This way, you can create a safer space for them to explore online.
KidsSafe is a simple tool that prevents your family’s devices from receiving harmful website content, including suicide, drugs, weapons and pornography.
Help them understand the impact of their tech use
Half of teenagers say that the use of technology has helped them feel less lonely (by making new friends or receiving support, advice and positive comments whilst being online). Nevertheless, Internet Matters recommends that your teens should be encouraged to balance their use of social media to avoid using it as a substitute for real friendships and connections.
By taking some time to understand what your teenager uses technology for, you’ll be able to suggest new ways to grow friendships online if it’s becoming too much.
Watch the clock
Internet Matters advises that you encourage your children to find a middle ground between using screens and spending time out and about with friends and family. Some use a simple family agreement to limit their hours spent on screens, however, there are methods that mean you can rest assured that they won’t be tempted to use their devices when they should be doing their homework.
Certain apps and other forms of technology are able to automatically set time limits on selected websites. TalkTalk’s Homework Time lets you set these limits to gaming platforms and even social media sites – meaning kids can only distract themselves for so long.
Don’t go viral
It’s always nice if our devices don’t catch a potentially harmful virus, just like us. By setting up virus alerts on your devices, you can monitor and block websites already infected with viruses before they even reach your computer – meaning that you and your family’s technology will be protected!
Let kids be kids
Internet Matters is aware that technology can have a positive impact on combatting loneliness in teenagers, and so do parents, according to TalkTalk research. 6 in 10 parents (60%) believed that their kids’ use of technology and the internet helped them make friends and actually improved their social skills.
Understanding the important role that the internet plays in many teenagers’ lives, Internet Matters suggests you take time to talk to your children about the friendships they form online – they’re not necessarily as real as face-to-face ones.
Trust that they’ll be sensible
You’ve probably trusted your children with a lot by now – to stay home without a babysitter, or to walk the dog by themselves for the first time for instance – but have you ever trusted them online with money?
Internet Matters recommends giving a small allowance to your teenagers which they can use to download apps, music and films that they want. This will build a level of trust between you and help teach them how to be sensible online.
Talk about their online social footprint
Many people don’t know that every time they upload something onto social media, or even email to a friend, it could remain on the Internet forever – and be seen by friends, employers or even future employers.
Internet Matters advises that you remind your kids to consider the T-shirt rule before posting something online – ‘if you wouldn’t wear it on a t-shirt it’s probably not worth posting’. A selfie that seems cool today may not be as cool later on when potential employers may stumble across it.
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