We all have dos and don’ts such as ‘house rules’ or ‘family policies‘ that we teach our children from a young age. Younger children tend to respond to these boundaries far more readily than teenagers, so establishing these rules at an early age before the bad habits set in is a good idea! Given the potential threat posed by some aspects of the internet, it makes good sense to apply as much attention to ground rules regarding your children’s online activities, as you would their day-to-day lives.
Although the educational and creative opportunities for children have revolutionized the way young people learn – there is an equal amount of potential for the exploitation or abuse of young people online too. Use the list below of potential problems that young people might encounter online when considering ground rules for your children’s internet use – if you haven’t already done so, consider creating a family internet policy to ensure everybody is getting the most out of the internet.
They might be online ‘friends’, other users when gaming online, or people that your children have connected with on social media. But unless your child actually knows these people – or someone who does – they could be anyone, posing as anyone. Make sure your children understand the concept of anonymity before using the internet.
Children often fall out with each other and this can lead to cyberbullying and online abuse. Children can ‘gang up’ on another child and when this happens online it can reach a far larger audience. The internet and social media can encourage a ‘mob mentality’ within groups of friends who argue online.
Your child could be putting themselves at risk online by sharing personal information or images that could be used by cyberbullies or even worse. Make sure your child has a sound understanding of the importance of personal security before using the internet and social media – even seemingly harmless bio information combined with information given away in posts on social media can be dangerous.
Practising bad netiquette can lead to misunderstandings when communicating online. Everybody who uses the internet should at least have a basic understanding of what netiquette is and why good netiquette is important.
One of the most important things you can do as the parent of a young child learning to navigate the internet, is to make sure that they can come to you with their online problems to seek advice or share their concerns. Too often we see children suffering in silence with bullying and abuse online – scared to speak with their parents or carers for fear of losing their internet privileges such as internet access or the use of their phone. Building a two-way trust based relationship regarding your child’s online activities will serve you both well in the longterm.