Child Safety Week

How can we teach children responsible behaviour online?

Being a parent has never been easy, but it can be even more challenging in this age when dynamic and virtual space has penetrated all facets of our lives. Even if you’re not up on the latest technologies and platforms, you still have an important role — may be the most important — in your kids’ online lives.

In order to be safe children need to be aware, identify safe and unsafe behaviour and report it to a trusted adult. In order to be responsible, they need to understand that they need to behave in a way that is safe for them and also for others. They need to respect their own as well as others’ personal boundaries and need not post or interact in a manner which can hurt someone’s feeling and step on their boundaries.

There isn’t an exhaustive list of the do’s and don’ts but we’ve directed our efforts into trying to put together a comprehensive list of things that can be done to teach your child responsible behaviour online and keep them safe:

  • Be Aware: The first step is for you to become aware of the risks and benefits of the cyberspace. This will help you confront the feeling that you are left behind when it comes to the latest app with awareness. It will also help you put the risk in proportion. It will also help to use technology to your advantage and teach these to your children:
    • Having strong secure passwords
    • Having updated privacy settings
    • Having parental controls on devices for younger children
    • Knowing that  whatever is posted online — photos, texts, videos, their phone number — can be copied, can be around forever, and might be seen by anyone
    • Knowing the legal ages for apps, games and social networking sites
    • Using kids browsers for younger children
    • Knowing diverse ways safety concerns can be reported so that you save the evidence, do not delete it and report it
  • Talk the Talk: Don’t wait until things have already gone wrong to talk to your kids about online issues, and don’t just have one “big talk.” What your kids need from you is guidance, so they’re prepared to deal with problems before they happen, support from you when things do go wrong, and for you to reinforce these messages by continuing to talk to them as they get older and are more able to make decisions for themselves. Integrate conversations on personal safety both in online and offline spaces into your ongoing conversations. Talk to them about how they can play a part in keeping themselves safe both in online and offline spaces. If you start early, they’ll be more willing to keep talking once they’re in their teens.
  • Explore together: Think of your kids’ online lives as being like their school or the playground. Most likely you know the names of their friends and ask your kids about what’s happening in those places, and the same should be true of their online lives. What your kids are watching, playing, reading and listening to is a big part of the person they’re turning into, and their online lives can be just as important to them as the “real world.” Start exploring the internet together when your kids are younger and imbibe responsible online behaviour.
  • Set rules and agree on them: Develop rules not as a set of instructions to be followed. But rationalise with your child the need for following the rules and talk to them how rules are just a way of getting across the values that we need to demonstrate. Once children imbibe the foundation of the rules they’ll keep living by them even when they’re grown up and out on their own. In order to develop rules, where children have equal ownership engage with children and ask simple questions like – How would you feel if someone was mean to you online? Do you think it’s ever okay to do something that you know will probably hurt someone’s feelings? Do you think it is okay to break someone’s personal boundaries by posting inappropriate content?
  • Be their trusted adult: A lot of the time, kids don’t want to go to their parents when things go wrong because they’re afraid they’ll get in trouble. When your kids start going online make sure they know clear procedures on what to do if things go wrong like if they can’t figure out a game or they accidentally access something uncomfortable content or they are bullied. If you have already initiated a conversation on personal safety with children and they have identified their trusted adult please let them know that they need to reach out to a trusted whenever they feel unsafe just like in an offline space.
  • Be a role model: Be a role model for them both in ways you respond in online and offline spaces. Respect their feelings and teach them to be respectful to others’ feelings even in online spaces.

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