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Do You Know How to Keep Your Children Safe Online?

This article was kindly contributed by Maria Vassiliades, from Cybersmart at ACMA.

You can help guide your children to enjoy the best of the online world by becoming aware of how they use the internet, understanding the types of risks they face and learning strategies to manage these risks. The more you know about cyber safety, the more empowered you will be to protect your kids when they go online.

One of the biggest cyber safety risks to children is posed by social networking websites. These sites are primarily used by children to keep in touch with their friends. They have become part of the everyday culture of children – recent research has shown that 94% of 14 – 15 year-olds have a social networking profile.    

While social networking sites do offer many positive benefits to children, these do not come without associated risks. Discussing safe practices with your children for safe online social networking is crucial.

Safety for Children on Social Networking Sites

So what should your child do to keep safe on social networking sites?

•    Remove flirty photos
•    Remove flirty nicknames
•    Don’t friend 'randoms'
•    Remove mobile phone numbers
•    Remove suburb/town if you have added your surname
•    Limit your friend list
•    Set your profile to private
•    Never meet online friends without telling a trusted adult first


Improve the Safety of Your Children Online

It is important for your children to be aware that what happens to them online can also affect them in the real world, so they must be taught to think carefully about their actions when using the internet. As a parent, you can take a number of steps to improve the safety of your children online:

•    Go online with your kids and understand what they do and where they go
•    Keep internet use to public areas of your house
•    Make digital issues part of everyday conversation
•    Consider blocking internet access on their smart phone if they’re young
•    Talk to teens about using their smart phones responsibly
•    Explain that geo-locators tell strangers where they are
•    Talk about what online ‘bad stuff’ looks like
•    Teach children to tell you if they come across ‘bad stuff’
•    Teach children to check before posting their personal information online
•    Teach children to only accept new online friends they know or ask you first
•    Update your security  and use pop-up blockers
•    Don’t be afraid to try technologies and sites for yourself  
•    Follow Cybersmart strategies if your child is being cyberbullied
•    Put in place steps to make social networking sites safe

How CyberSmart Are You Video

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), as part of the Australian Government’s commitment to cyber safety, manages Cybersmart, a national cyber safety education program.   A short video, How Cybersmart Are You? has been released and has been added to the happychild website as an embedded video here.  The video is designed to help parents navigate through the online world of teenagers and provides strategies on how to protect them from potential online risks.

Internet Safety Awareness Presentations

As part of its Cybersmart Outreach program to schools across Australia, the ACMA offers a range of Internet Safety Awareness Presentations for parents, students and teachers. These presentations are easy to understand and informative. You may wish to talk to your school or Parents Association to arrange these.

Presentations for parents cover a range of cyber safety topics including:

•    strategies for parents and teachers to help children stay safe online
•    potential risks faced by children when online: cyber bullying, identity theft and unwanted contact
•    signs to look for if your child is being cyber bullied or receiving unwanted contact
•    tools on what to do if your child is cyber bullied
•    emerging technologies and how they’re used
•    how children use the internet at different age levels
•    strategies for being secure online
•    maintaining a healthy life balance
The Cybersmart website also provides a range of further advice on how to ensure children remain safe online, and is an important resource for parents to consult.

Remember, the online world provides a huge range of positive opportunities for children to learn and grow. However, it is important that online risks to their safety are minimised so that their experiences are safe, rewarding, and positive.