I originally wrote this piece in 2013 and unfortunately I’m reviewing it today in the light of discussion about children’s internet access and online safety today.
As you may guess I’ve lots of opinions on the topic but I’ve also had the benefit of some child protection training thanks to the organisations that I volunteered with. Couple my opinions, training and being able to set clear, defined boundaries with my husband and you get our household guidelines.
I’m not saying that we have everything right, far from it. I do think that it helps that my husband and I have agreed the rules in private and support one another in the decisions that are made. Maybe the tips I have below will give you something to think about if your children aren’t quite at the age where you need to worry yet. Perhaps you have set your own rules and disagree with our choices and that’s perfectly alright too.
The now 18 year old likes to give me a ribbing that I am encouraging parents to “stalk” their children. It’s not a case of “stalking” but of protecting and supporting our children/young adults to use the internet and social media responsibly until they are old enough and mature enough to do so on their own. It just goes to show that whatever rules you set, you should talk to your children in advance so that they know exactly what the boundaries are and why you have set them.
- Social Media is a method of communication. If you can’t communicate in real life with your child then you are going to struggle with boundaries and guidelines online.
- Be a positive role model. If you don’t want your child getting involved in spats or running people down in public then don’t do it yourself.
- If you don’t want your child online for all of their spare time then you need to put down the smartphone/laptop yourself and invest more time in the family yourself. Lead by example.
- If you don’t have accounts in the networks that they want to use, then now is the time to get them and become au fait with the terms and ways in which they are used.
- Openness with one another is key. If you intend to read their emails/monitor their internet usage then tell them in advance. Likewise with requiring passwords and access to the sites that they use.
- Privileges are earned, not a right. Make clear rules and consequences for breaking the internet rules. Don’t forget to follow through. Likewise offer rewards for responsible internet behaviour and acknowledge the good stuff.
- If there are websites or content that you feel your child should never have access to then block these at the access point, which for most families would be the WIFI in the house. Read up on your router settings and find out how to do this. Alternately install a net-nanny type service on your browser. I believe though that you have to give your child a degree of trust so that this method should be a last resort rather than first.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Bad spelling, grammar & text speak are the least of your worries!
- Make sure that you set your browser to save the history in the cache at the end of each session and not to delete it. Disable private browsing.
This is not an exhaustive list but it does cover the more important parts that affect our family. If you have any tips or personal experience I’d love to hear them.