While many parents and carers may be worried about their children spending more time online during lockdown, it’s important to understand what they’re doing online rather than setting limits on their total screen time.
For example, a child may spend hours searching the internet, while another child may spend less time each day talking to people they don’t know on a livestreaming or video app.
Asking them about the sites, apps and games they use regularly can be a great way to start a conversation and help you identify any risks in what your child’s doing online or who they may be talking to. We’ve got some great tips below to help get you started.
You can also find online safety tips and information about social networks, apps and games for parents over on Net Aware, in partnership with O2.
Many children will find it hard not being able to see their friends or family in person, and video apps can be a great way for them to stay in touch during lockdown when used safely, but there are also risks for young people.
It’s really important to help your child understand how to livestream and use video apps safely and make sure they’re speaking to people they know already. Net Aware, in partnership with O2, has advice on livestreaming, including how to keep children safe on popular online apps such as Zoom, HouseParty and WhatsApp.
For children, online life is real life. It can help to think about how your child could feel sharing what they're doing online before you talk to them.
Some emotions they could be feeling are:
Children are also likely to be spending more time on social media during coronavirus lockdown. While social media can be a good way for children and teenagers to stay in touch with friends they’re unable to see in person, it can also be unsafe. Children using social media may also be at greater risk of online abuse or online bullying during coronavirus lockdown.
A recent NSPCC survey shows that children turning to social media because they’re feeling lonely or have poor mental health are at higher risk of being groomed online.
Talking to your child about what they’re doing or sharing online can help you to understand any risks and keep them safe. Net Aware also has advice on popular apps, games and social media sites, including TikTok, Snapchat and Facebook.
Starting a conversation about online safety
It can be difficult to know how to start talking to your child about what they’re doing online or who they might be speaking to. But talking regularly, like you would about their day at school, will help your child feel relaxed and mean that when they do have any worries, they’re more likely to come and speak to you. It can help to:
- reassure them that you're interested in their life, offline and online. Recognise that they'll be using the internet to research homework as well talking to their friends.
- ask your child to show you what they enjoy doing online or apps they’re using so you can understand them.
- be positive but also open about anything you're worried about. You could say "I think this site's really good" or "I'm a little worried about things I've seen here."
- ask them if they're worried about anything, and let them know they can come to you.
- ask them about their friends online and how they know they are who they say they are.
- listen for the reasons why your child wants to use apps or site you don't think are suitable, so you can talk about these together.
- ask your child what they think's okay for children of different ages so they feel involved in the decision making.
Rules for Responsible Internet Use
The school has installed computers and Internet access to help our learning. These rules will help keep everyone safe and help us to be fair to others:
- I will only access the system with my own login and password, which I will keep secret.
- I will not access other people's files.
- I will only use the computers for school work and homework.
- I will not bring removable storage drives from outside school unless I have been given permission.
- I will ask permission from a member of staff before using the Internet.
- I will only email people I know, or my teacher has approved.
- The messages I send will be polite and responsible.
- I will not give out my home address or telephone number, or arrange to meet someone, unless my parent, carer or teacher has given permission.
- I will report any unpleasant material or messages sent or me. I understand my report should be confidential and would help to support other pupils and myself.
- I understand that the school may check my computer files and may monitor the sites I visit.
Please read our Unacceptable use of and access to ICT facilities policy by clicking on the link
<---- This is a CEOP video that provides useful information about keeping your child safe on the Internet.
If you're worried about something a child or young person may have experienced online, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for free support and advice on 0808 800 5000