The COVID-19 pandemic has made socialising with friends and family difficult. What we once took for granted has now become a luxury and many of us have had to sacrifice seeing our loved ones in order to keep everyone safe. Despite this, it has never been more important to stay in touch.
Luckily, technology has risen to the occasion and we have, at our fingertips, the means for contacting our friends without even leaving the house.
However, online risks are ever-present and we must prioritise our online safety, especially that of our students and children. Remote learning means that they will be turning to their social media accounts and different messaging apps a lot more over the next few months, so it’s important parents and trusted adults take the right steps to keep them safe.
Top tip #1 – don’t accept requests from strangers
This might sound obvious, but when on social media, ensure your children only accept friend/follower requests from (and only send requests to) people they know.
Apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have functions that facilitate private messages, providing ideal methods of socialising with friends. However, if your child has accepted a request from someone they do not know, this stranger can then send them private messages.
The NSPCC reported that the risks to children online had increased during the first lockdown as the charity experienced a significant rise in the number of counselling sessions relating to online grooming.
The head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, Andy Burrows, said: “These figures suggest that online abuse was already rising before lockdown, and the risks to children appear to have spiked significantly since.”
Top tip #2 – put your privacy settings in lockdown too!
Lockdown your children’s social media accounts. Ensure all privacy settings are switched on so that their personal information and private content aren’t exposed to the world.
Having public social media accounts permits anyone access to your profile. This introduces similar online dangers as accepting friend requests from strangers. For example, your child could be at risk of exposure to unwanted or inappropriate online content from strangers without prior warning, such as unsuitable language in comments or age-inappropriate content being published to their timelines.
As aforementioned, online grooming is a serious danger to children when they visit the online world and, last year, The Guardian reported that the majority of online grooming offences in the UK were committed on Facebook-owned apps (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp). If your child has public social media accounts, such as Facebook and Instagram, they are exposed to the threat of online grooming.
Top tip #3 – parental controls are your friends
Parental controls are ideal for screening the content to which your children are exposed on their devices as well as setting certain limitations. Most devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and gaming consoles, offer parental controls in the settings so that you may set screen times, block age-inappropriate content, and only allow your children to interact with people they already know.
Top tip #4 – encourage kindness online
Unfortunately, cyberbullying is still prevalent today with a fifth of children aged 10-15 years experiencing it. Being called names, sworn at, or insulted are some of the top-most common online bullying behaviour victims are subject to, as well as being the target of malicious online messages.
Encourage your children to spread kindness online rather than hate. Sharing memes or funny videos with their friends helps them to keep in touch and may also bring a smile to their face. Reposting positive stories or articles helps add some optimism to their friends’ timelines. If their friends/classmates have posted about an achievement, encourage your children to like/share that post – this will help recognise that friend’s achievement and help them celebrate it.
Top tip #5 – join National Online Safety
If you’re a school, joining our certified membership will give you unlimited access to our comprehensive range of webinars, courses, and explainer videos, all of which are designed by leading authorities in the education sector.
You can also download our brand-new app which provides you will access to our award-winning online safety resources anytime, anywhere – right at your fingertips.
Become a member today and empower your whole-school community with the latest online safety education, training, and updates to help keep children safe online.Choose your membership