(c) – Make a family policy or agreement

Institutions such as schools and colleges have a wealth of advantages over families when it comes to protecting young people online; technical staff to manage devices, written policies which users “sign up” to, established sanctions for abuse, staff to supervise and check that good practice is being maintained and so on.  Parents have almost none of this – they may not even know where to begin…

Whatever you choose to call it, a family policy or agreement on using online services is an essential first step to keeping children safe.  How will they know if they have “overstepped the mark” if they don’t understand what the mark is?!  Here are some suggestions for things you may wish to talk to your children about – this conversation needs to be ongoing and revisited frequently so that everyone knows what is and is not acceptable…

For younger children:  Is all the information on websites true?  Should the child ask before visiting a new site?  Is everyone on the internet who and what they say they are?  Is the child allowed to fill in a form online, for example to enter a competition  or comment on a posting?  In an online game, if there are forums or chat facilities is the child allowed to take part?  Are they allowed to have an email address and if so are they allowed to email “anyone”?  What should they do if they see something upsetting?  Who should they tell?  What should they do about the page or message etc?

For later Primary and early Secondary aged children: Are they allowed to sign up to a site which has members?  If so, what information is it safe to provide, and what name will they choose to use?  Are they allowed to download software or install apps on tablets or phones?  If they take pictures on a phone who can they share with and what apps can they use?  If you use (for example) Google as your main search engine, will it be kept in safe mode?  If you use youtube, will it be kept in safe mode?  Are they allowed to join Facebook, Twitter etc?  If so, what security settings will they use on Facebook, who will they follow on Twitter, and are they allowed to use direct messaging?  If they have a webcam do they know when it’s on and who can they communicate with?  If they have a tablet can they use Facetime or similar services?  Should each member of the family have separate accounts – and if so will you check the browsing history?  If they play games (if!!!) do you know what the content is – the PEGI ratings are there for a reason and their website has descriptions of areas of concern.

 …….to be continued!