10 tips to keep your children safe online
1. Talk about it: Make time to chat about online risks and how to use the internet safely as soon as they're old enough to go online. Encourage your children to speak to you about what they view online and empower them to act if they're worried about anything.
2. Recognise the risks: Educate yourself about the potential dangers children could face online so it’s easier to spot warning signs. Get to know what platforms your children use, and learn about dangers such as phishing, grooming and cyberbullying.
3. Teach the do's and don'ts: Be clear about the non-negotiables. For example, teach your child not to share personal details or photos with strangers and instruct them not to click on links to unknown websites or texts. Do encourage your child to question what they see and only accept friend requests from people they know.
4. Spot the signs: Pay attention to your children's behaviour whilst on and off their devices. Being alert to changes in your child can help prevent problems from escalating. Some warning signs are withdrawing from friends or family, sleeping and eating problems or losing interest in previously loved hobbies or interests.
5. Set boundaries: Let your children know what they can and can't do on the internet from the get-go. Agree on what devices they can use, when, and how long they can spend online. As they get older, explaining and negotiating boundaries may be more effective.
6. Take 'parental' control: These ready-made boundaries put parents in control of what children can see online. They can be set up through your internet provider at device level to block specific websites and filter out inappropriate content.
7. Be social media savvy: The popularity of social media apps like TikTok and Snapchat makes it harder to keep track of what your child is accessing online. Fortunately, each social media platform has its own privacy settings and safety tips for parents. Check them out before you let children have their own accounts.
8. Protect from harm: Install antivirus software on family devices to minimise the risk of cyber attacks or scams. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra security on your online accounts. This can also stop children from signing into services they're not allowed to use.
9. Set a great example: You're the greatest 'influencer' in your children's lives when they're young. Limiting your time online, discussing dangers you've come across, and questioning what you view can help reinforce the rules you are setting for your children and, in turn, influence their online behaviour.
10. Seek support: The more you learn about online dangers, the better equipped you'll be to handle them. There are some great resources like webwise.ie, internetmatters.org and cybersafekids.ie to help you recognise and reduce online dangers and seek advice if you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying or is at risk online.