Can you believe that as many as 1 in 5 parents in the UK NEVER talk to their child about staying safe online, and only around half regularly chat to their young ones about possible risks on the internet? This is the apparently truth, according to a new survey by National Online Safety.
The multi-award-winning online safety training and resources provider carried out a poll of more than 1,100 parents and carers in the UK, which found just 54% have a conversation with their child about staying safe online at least once a month.
National Online Safety believe that children should be able to learn, communicate or play online in safety. They already empower schools worldwide with the knowledge to tackle new and evolving online risks with their School Membership package. Their online safety courses and resources are constantly being updated to meet schools’ needs, and they currently provide safety and support to more than 38,000 schools across more than 100 countries, through their award-winning learning hub and mobile app.
Now, National Online Safety has produced four NEW video training courses designed specifically for parents and carers. Presented by the very lovely celeb Mum Myleene Klass, they are designed to give parents a better grasp of common online safety issues – and empower them to discuss these issues with their child.
James Southworth, Director of National Online Safety, says: “Adults might avoid those conversations for all sorts of reasons – they could feel that their child’s still too young, for example, or they might assume that young people know about online safety already.
“Sometimes, parents can find it difficult or awkward to talk to children about certain online issues. Most often, people simply don’t feel they understand enough about online hazards themselves to advise their children.
“Most people know someone or have heard of someone – a parent or a child – who's fallen foul of online scams or harms. Our mission is to empower parents to take back control of these conversations.”
Each of the parents’ courses covers a different developmental phase, broadly aligned to schools’ Key Stages (3–7 years; 7–11 years: 11–14 years; and 14–18 years). Content is compiled by National Online Safety’s experts, and the courses feature valuable insights and practical suggestions for avoiding or dealing with common online threats.
Myleene says: “As a mum, I want my kids to feel safe online – to express themselves; have fun; learn and enjoy the benefits the online world has to offer. However, I also want my kids to be aware of the risks, to feel like they can talk freely and to know they’ve got support – from me – if they need it.
She describes the courses as: "...short, easy to understand and packed full of brilliant advice: they’re a great starting point to get the conversation going, especially if you’re not up to speed with the online world. The thing I really like is that you can learn at your own pace, on any device, by watching them at a time that suits you.”
For more information on this fab new FREE resource, click here! Want more tips on screen time for kids? Read on!
Tip #1 Stay in control of your devices
Once of the best piece of advice I can give you is to stay in control of the devices that you let your child use. You may feel pushed at some point to let your child have a phone or iPad, to let them join certain chat groups, apps, or social media platforms. But make it very clear from the outset that the phone (or other device) belongs to YOU. You can give your child the phone to use, and you can take it away. This is an expensive and potentially dangerous piece of technology, and your child does not have the mental maturity to understand this. When can your child own their own phone? When they can pay for it themselves, that's when!
Tip #2 Setting Boundaries
Don't be afraid to set boundaries for time spent online or screen time in general (when, where, and how much), and don't be afraid to reduce the amount of time your children spend on screens, or make changes to what they are and are not allowed to watch or view. Remember how addictive these things are, and how easily one thing can lead to another. Screen time can be a slippery slope, and you need not be worried about taking control of the reigns and cutting back. Your child may not like it in the short term, but be strong in the knowledge that you are doing the right thing for them in the long term. They will get used to it! A good way to help your child reduce their screen or phone addiction is by not saying NO, but by saying YES, and simply allowing them a smaller amount of screen time and reducing gradually over a period of time.
Tip #3 Out of sight, out of mind
If possible do not provide screens or devices in your child's bedroom, the kitchen, the playroom, the car, and if necessary cover or remove the screens or devices when they are not in use. Younger child do not need to be given a screen while eating, while travelling, while waiting for a bus or an appointment, while on a train, while on an aeroplane, when in the buggy, or while outdoors. If you offer them a screen, they are unlikely to turn it down, but children have managed these situations for decades without needing to be digitally entertained.
Tip #4 Make sure all your devices are safe
Children become adept at using technology and the internet alarmingly quickly. Pretty soon they will be able to do things that you can't. Make sure all your devices are safe by making use of parental control tools, and installing family safety software, so that you can sure about what is and is not available to them. Subscription TV services make it very easy for children to browse through and select TV shows on their own. Keep an eye on what they are watching, talk about what they are watching with them, and use resources such as Common Sense Media to check if certain shows are suitable. If possible, watch together as a family, rather than letting this become a solitary activity. This makes it easier to discuss what is being watched.
Tip #5 Set a good example
Want to reduce your child's screen time? Start by reducing your own. The children of today are not only growing up adept at using technology from an early age, they are also growing with parents who are often distracted by what is on their own phone, laptop, or tablet screen. How often does your child see you look at a screen? Do you make eye contact with your child, or speak to them while keeping your eyes on your phone? Try to be mindful about what your child sees you doing, and if possible keep your phone out of site during key moments during your child’s day, like mealtimes, one-on-one time, bath-time, bedtime, and study time. We can even be guilty of using our phones too often to take photos of our loved ones - trying to get the perfect cute snap for social media! Setting a good example will help your child manage their own screen time in the future!
We have come a long way since Tim Berners-Lee made his prediction about screens at a conference in Geneva in 1998. I like to think that screens can be a very positive addition to our lives, and a wonderful tool for leaning and development for children, but I feel very strongly that it is our responsibility to stay in control of those screens, and not let the screens (or the industries that create them!) control us. If you need a little food for thought on this idea, I highly recommend a screening (yes, on a screen!) of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (have we lost control of our pens? Is Alexa simply HAL in disguise? Let me know what you think)! You can find more of my thoughts on screen time in my blog post Screen Time: The Good, the Bad, and The Mindful Balance.
While you are here why not read up on whether we should be worried about sugar consumption, my Definitive Gift Guide for New Parents, and some more great tips from some of my other favourite specialists: Author and Forest School Leader Sarah Watkins, Midwife and Lactation Consultant Shelley Wilson, more advice from, Emma West, The Step-In-Mum Veronika Durham, and Declutterer and Organiser Joanne Forde.
Take care, switch off, and speak soon!