We caught up with Leonie Smith, The Cyber Safety Lady, and she was nice enough to share with us 3 of her cyber safety tips for parents.
1) Get educated: Attend a cyber safety meeting.
Parent education needs to start early in a child’s life. From the moment your child is handed an internet connected device, a parent needs to know if it is set up safely for their child. It can take only a few steps before your child finds inappropriate adult content whether it be on a smart phone or an iPad. Looking over your child’s shoulder won’t prevent that image from suddenly appearing.
The best place to start getting educated about cyber safety is to attend a cyber safety talk. Most parent cyber safety or eSafety talks are free and many schools and community organizations hold them. Sadly many parents don’t think they need to attend these talks, until something goes wrong for their child online. Cyber safety talks given by qualified educators are often the easiest first step for parents to gain information about how their child uses technology and what parents need to know. The educator will hopefully give the parent some good tips around online safety and resources to continue their education, and answer some questions you might have about your own family’s use.
Without parent cyber safety education, your child is at risk. Uneducated supervision of your child’s online world simply won’t work, because you won’t recognize what you find on your child’s device or know how to find out if its safe. You also won’t know what to do when your child comes to you for help. Friending your child on social media simply isn’t enough to keep her or she safe, especially when so many kids use messaging apps now.
2. Supervise your kids online.
Having the main internet connected devices in a high traffic area like a family room means that not only can you see their screen from time to time without barging in to a teens room to “catch them at it” you can also see your child’s behavior and reaction to what is happening for them online. Seeing or hearing your child’s reactions and behavior can alert you to something that is upsetting them and you can address it straight away.
Teens want to be trusted, but as parents we trust when teens show us that our trust in them is warranted. Spying or overly moderating our child online may not be necessary and may delay your child’s maturity around technology. If you “spy” on your teens online, you should only do so if you suspect that they are at serious risk. A teen that knows his every move is being monitored will feel that his social space is being invaded, and might then go to some lengths to create social and messaging spaces in secret, away from parental supervision.
However, in the case where children are at serious risk of self harm or from contact with predators, parents need to take steps to ensure that their child is protected. Parents may need to get advice on parental controls, filters, and even monitoring software to protect the child. Too many cases of self harm have occurred after a child has been pushed to the limit through cyber bullying, because the parents held back, didn’t know what to do, or didn’t know it was going on.
3. Find a game to play with your kids, get on board with your child’s online life!
Communication with your child about their gaming and online world is imperative if parents are to keep up with what their children are doing on Technology. Children are our greatest educators. If your child clams up every time you try to discuss what they are doing online, there may be a problem. It might be that the child is concerned that you won’t like what they are doing, and might take the internet or the device away. It might be because they think you won’t be interested or won’t understand.
Spend some time finding out about your child’s favorite games or apps. Is there a game that you think you might enjoy playing with them? Even if you are hopeless at playing it, kids actually love teaching their parents, and turning the tables can be very rewarding for both child and parent. Ask your child to recommend some games for you that they think you might like. My son recommended Portal 2 for me after understanding the types of games I liked to play. Seeing him rolling on the floor laughing at my feeble attempts to jump through the portals was not humiliating for me, it was fun!
The gaming world has progressed way past the Mario bros (although it’s coming back!) or the first person shooter games if you aren’t attracted to those. There are some incredible games out there for tablets, phones, PC’s and console that adults and kids will both love to play. Games like Portal2, The Room, and The Room2, Lily, The Cave, Words With Friends, Chess, Badland, Interlocked, Blek, Contrast and many more. Once you find one game you like, have a look at the suggestions for other games that are similar through the suggestions tab on the Google Play or iTunes store. You can also read reviews about great games at Common Sense Media or other online review sites.
It’s never too late to learn about the type of technology our kids are using. As parents we all had steep learning curves to be able to be effective and loving parents. Learning about how our kids use technology is just as important as learning about the best education for our children, understanding their needs, learning about their favorite sport or hobby in order to help and support them. Children also need us to be supportive and educated about the huge influence on their young lives which is digital technology. Add up the hours your child spends in front of a screen, with that much time spent using technology it would be like ignoring nutrition or ignoring educational needs in comparison. It’s simply not good enough to say “I don’t have time to learn all this tech stuff, I’ll just hope for the best” You never know…..you might actually benefit and enjoy it!
What games do you play with your kids? Let us know in the comment box below.
You can find out more about Leonie Smith: The Cyber Safety Lady, where I have reviews of games and apps and step by step guides to help you keep you and your child safe online. Leonie’s cyber safety manual has step by step instructions for safe search options, privacy settings for social media and more.