Keeping your children safe online

Whether your child is six or 16 – he or she is using the internet to connect with their friends and family members. 

Because they consume content, this means that they have an online identity and are leaving behind a digital footprint. 

It is inevitable that they will stumble across content that is inappropriate – it cannot be avoided. Educating your children about the safe use of the internet is becoming increasingly challenging as the digital world is in constant flux and new platforms for connecting emerge daily.

YouTube restricted mode

The go-to social media site for most young children is YouTube. If this comes to a surprise to you, just spend 10 minutes at any café on a Saturday morning and you see several families struggling to drag their children away from watching anything and everything - from other children opening presents to ‘fail’ videos from people worldwide.

It’s easy for children to hit ‘next’ to continue watching however, sometimes the suggested video isn’t particularly relevant to the previous video and YouTube shares content that is far from appropriate. YouTube have put in place some instructions to help parents have some level of control over what their child is consuming, or any user of YouTube on a particular device. This is called the ‘restricted mode’ and you can learn how to set it up here.

Set some ground rules

When using the internet, many children will be exposed to content with which they aren’t familiar with - and may be inclined to click through to investigate further. With this action, they have made a decision based on curiosity. As a parent, it is important to educate your children about the type of content that is safe or unsafe - so they can make the right decision, even when you aren’t around.

You can sit down with your child and using the internet together, go through and identify what safe content looks like versus inappropriate content and set some expectations for their internet use.

Get assistance from an IT professional

For the average person, setting up the internet via some instructions you have received from your internet provider is a task that is manageable. Identifying when there are safety breaches or when there is a problem with a computer is another thing entirely.

Googling “Computer Support Newcastle” will confirm there are a large number of IT professionals across Newcastle, Maitland and the Hunter Valley that you can rely on for support. It’s better to take a preventative approach with your IT maintenance rather than just visit when issues arise as many issues can be avoided. Things like updating anti-virus software is a highly important part of computer maintenance however often overlooked.

The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Schools Office have over 19,000 students in our network and hundreds of talented staff to support with responsive technology infrastructure.  If it wasn’t for our IT support team, we could not offer the level of accessibility that we do. 2018 is set to be a year of innovation and advancements across our school system with IT currently in the process of falling under one shared service.

Understand how social media works

Many parents are not fully aware of how the social media sites capture data and how a user’s online behaviour can determine the content that they are delivered. This is a very important concept for parents to grasp to ensure you can pass along valid and insightful advice to your children.

Jennifer Golbeck, computer scientist and director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland shares some insights in this TedTalk which has over 2 million views worldwide.

Just because there isn’t a physical exchange, this doesn’t mean that something isn’t left behind from our activity online. Use Jennifer’s TedTalk as a learning tool to educate young people on the ins and outs of social media in a meaningful way.

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