5 ways to keep your child’s online experiences positive and safe
If your family is stuck at home during the Covid-19 outbreak, it’s likely your children spend a lot more time online. School, chats with friends and grandparents — so much has shifted online.
Being connected helps children and teenagers reduce the impact of this new normal and encourages them to continue with their lives. But it also presents a new set of challenges for every parent.
How can you maximise all the internet has to offer while minimising the potential harm? It’s not an easy balance on a normal day, let alone when facing a health crisis such as Covid-19. Below are some ways to keep your child’s online experience safe
Have an honest dialogue with your children about who they communicate with and how. Be alert if your child appears to be upset or secretive with online activities or if they are experiencing cyber-bullying. Work with your child to establish rules on how, when and where devices can be used.
Use technology to protect them
Check that your child’s device is running the latest software and anti-virus programmes and that privacy settings are on. Keep webcams covered when not in use. For younger children, tools such as parental controls, including safe search, can help keep online experiences positive. Be cautious of free online educational resources. Your child should never have to provide a photo or their full name to use these resources. Remember to check the privacy settings to minimise data collection. Help your child learn to keep personal information private, especially from strangers.
Spend time with them online
Create opportunities for your child to have safe and positive online interactions with friends, family and you. Connecting with others is more important than ever at the moment and this can be an excellent opportunity for you to model kindness and empathy in your virtual interactions.
Encourage healthy online habits
Promote and monitor good behaviour online and on video calls. Encourage your children to be kind and respectful to classmates, mindful of what clothes they wear and avoid joining video calls from a bedroom.
Let them have fun and express themselves
Spending time at home can be a great opportunity for your children to use their voices online to share their views and support those in need during this crisis. Encourage your child to take advantage of digital tools that get them up and moving, like online exercise videos for kids and video games that require physical movement. Remember to balance online recreation with offline activities, including time outside, if possible.
Jacobstein is a child rights and business specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).