What is E-Safety?
E-safety, internet safety, online safety, web safety, call it whatever you will is all about the safe and responsible use of technology like the internet, text messages, emails, gaming consoles etc. It is especially important for parents to help keep children stay safe online as they are the most vulnerable. It encompasses both electronic security and safety and also online behaviour and etiquette.
Children and young people on average spend 12 hours a week online
It’s important as a parent to be aware of the potential risks and dangers of being online and equipping yourself with the necessary knowledge to keep your child safe online. This has never been more true than now as we live in a connected world where the internet is all around us and everything it seems has a way of connecting to the internet.
The crucial thing is to TALK, talking is STILL the best way to help your children stay safe online regardless of how many tools you use. Talk about what your child does online, who they might be connected with, what sites they use. Talk about the dangers they may come across. Talk about what to do if they encounter them. Build trust with your child so they feel they can come to you if they see something inappropriate online.
Stay Safe Online – Risks and dangers
The main risks and dangers surrounding e-safety can be categorised into 3 risk areas:
- Content – making sure content is appropriate and not harmful.
- Contact – ensuring no harmful interaction with others i.e. grooming, cyber bullying.
- Conduct – how you behave and your actions online.
Ignoring age restrictions – Age restrictions are there to ensure children’s safety. Some websites or games have age restrictions and checks to ensure inappropriate content isn’t seen. Many social networking sites have an age limit of 13 + to register, however there’s no real way to stop younger children from using them.
Inappropriate content – Children may actively seek out or accidentally be exposed to illegal or unsuitable material, for example lewd music, obscenities, pornography, excessive violence, and hateful material that is racist, homophobic, sexist. They may also be able to view harmful and dangerous advice, for example material that promotes self harm, eating disorders or even suicide.
Grooming and sexual abuse – Online predators are adults that befriend a child, engaging with them and pretending to make a connection with them, all for the purpose of preparing them for sexual abuse. You can report online abuse to The National Crime Agency CEOP Command
Communicating and befriending a stranger – Children can quickly become ‘friends’ with someone online that they don’t know, this could be either via social networking sites or through online gaming. Not everyone is who they say they are online and it can sometimes lead on to other things such as sharing personal details to grooming and cyber bullying.
It should also be pointed out that these are not just limited to social media, contact can be made via console games (for example headsets etc.)
Sharing personal information – Privacy controls and settings on social media sites are important as they limit the details of what strangers can see. However once a person is added as a ‘friend’ they have access to this information. Either adjusting or switching off your GPS / location tracking is a good idea as it can give clues to where you live, socialise, go to school / work.
Cyber bullying – Anything that is posted online stays online. It’s important to be respectful to others and not to post anything that would hurt or upset anyone.
Inappropriate content – Sharing naked images of themselves or others can lead to life altering consequences. For example there was an article in the news about a boy of 14 who was put on a police database for committing a ‘child sex crime’ after he shared a naked selfie to a schoolgirl.
How to keep your child safe whilst surfing
So now we’ve taken a look at what e-safety is and identified some of the dangers that lurk on the web, we are moving on to discuss ways parents / carers can help keep children remain safe whilst surfing the internet.
Talk – From an early age it’s a good idea to chat regularly with your child about how to stay safe online, and continue to do so as they grow older and technology develops and evolves. This is your best defence when trying to help your child stay safe online. If they know they can approach you when they have either seen something inappropriate or something they are not sure of has happened online you are starting from a very good place.
Surf together – Show an interest in your child’s online activities and what they enjoy most online. By supporting and encouraging them it will give you an insight into what they do without interrogating them. It can also be of benefit when they are younger to keep the computer in a family room.
Ensure content is appropriate – Check that the sites that your child regularly uses are suitable. Games, movies and some websites have age restrictions to ensure children do not gain access to inappropriate content.
Rules and boundaries – Agree ground rules with your child. Set time limits, agree when they can go on, for example after homework is completed, agree websites they can visit. Discuss how to treat people and how to behave online and discuss the consequences of not doing this.
Privacy and Reporting tools – It’s important for anyone to regularly check privacy settings on accounts. Ensure your child understands the importance of keeping their personal details private, for example their date of birth, address. Talk about what they should do if they see anything they find uncomfortable, or if someone contacts them that makes them feel worried or upset, ensure they know how to use the report tools just in case.
Know your child’s ‘friends’ – Ensure that your child understands that not everyone online is truthful, they might for example be lying about who they are, how old they are etc. It’s easy to pretend to be somebody else behind the protection of a computer screen. Be aware of who you child is talking and communicating with and who they choose to be ‘friends’ with online.
Parental controls – setting up parental controls, whether it be on your browser, online gaming, social networking, tablets, or even through you internet service provider or programs such as Net Nanny or K9 Protection, allow content to be filtered, restricted and monitored. Controls can be adjusted according to age and trust levels. Some of these tools also allow you to set things like time limits and disable access to the internet at certain times which all help your child stay safe online.