How do we prepare children to cross the road? We speak to them about the risks, we practise looking right and left, and we show them how to identify zebra crossings. In the beginning, we hold their hands and walk with them. Now consider, have you given as much thought to preparing your child to cross what is dubbed “the information superhighway” – the internet?
In a time when social distancing is key to addressing the evolving public health issue of Covid-19, the internet allows children to learn, connect and create. However, going online is not risk-free. Over the next three articles, we explore three questions every parent must ask when their child uses the internet:
1. What are they seeing?
2. What are they doing?
3. Who are they talking to?
According to eSafety research, most young people have viewed inappropriate content before the age of 17. Nearly half of children aged 9 to 16 regularly view sexual images. These images are most often viewed on either content-sharing apps such as Snapchat or Discord, or on live-streaming platforms such as TikTok or Periscope.
How do you know what your child is seeing? Your first thought might be to maximise parental controls (and this is important), but the first step to online safety does not require technology. It is the simple, powerful but often under-estimated tool of parenting: Talking to your child. According to research from our national Centre to Counter Child
Exploitation, only half of Australian parents regularly talk to their children about online safety.
It is vital to create the space for your children to speak to you honestly about any concerns they have about their internet use. Here are some ways you can do this:
Be curious and supportive, learn about their favourite games or apps;
Talk to them about the risks of going online;
Problem-solve together what they might do if they see something scary or yucky online;
Avoid using the removal of devices as a behavioural consequence.
For more information, visit the eSafety Commissioner’s website on https://www.esafety.gov.au/parents.
Article Written + Submitted by
Monica Purcell | Family Facilitator