How to teach kids online safety, brought to you by Westnet

From the day they are born, we put measures in place to protect our children. From baby gates to bike helmets to swimming lessons, our kids’ safety comes first – and now that digital devices are commonplace in family life, it’s become more important than ever to watch out for our kids online too.

Recent eSafety research reveals that 81 percent of Australian parents say their 2-to-5 year old uses the internet. Technology is an integral part of modern life and, with a little planning, you can easily teach kids the right way to use it.

To help out parents and carers, the Australian eSafety commissioner has developed some easy-to-follow online safety tips, summarised for you below by the Westnet and iiNet team.

1. Be a good role model

Where you go, they go – so make sure you are setting a good example. Patterns like looking at your screen when talking to someone in the room or sleeping next to devices are watched by small eyes and quickly copied, so take time to assess whether your digital habits are healthy before imposing rules.

Another tip to lead the way in digital etiquette is to ask your child if it is OK for you to share a photo, video, or status about them online. It will teach respectful sharing practices (and, in return, save you from any unflattering photos!)

2. Set rules

And not just for the little ones. Build good habits together by having everyone in the household sit down and agree on the family tech rules. The eSafety commissioner has developed two templates to use when writing your rules – we suggest printing them to hang somewhere where everyone can see, such as the fridge family noticeboard.    

Not sure what family tech rules you need? Here are some thought starters from us:

  • Don’t share personal information online. Use nicknames instead of real ones and never reveal addresses or phone numbers.
  • Only talk to people you know. Make your profile private and only add people you know in real life.
  • Only use devices in shared spaces, like the lounge room, family room, or kitchen.

3. Start talking

While your child may not understand the internet or data sharing just yet, starting the conversation early helps form their understanding of what is and isn’t appropriate in the digital world. And remember communication works two ways. Encourage your child to speak up if they ever encounter something online that makes them worried or scared, and reassure them that they will not be in trouble if they seek help. We all make mistakes, after all!

A few more handy resources…

  • Kiddle – a safe visual search engine for kids to stop them accidentally accessing inappropriate content.
  • Common Sense Media – provides age-based reviews of games, apps, websites, movies, and TV programs to help you decide if they are suitable.
  • eSafety Early Years booklet – A printable booklet full of practical advice and strategies for parents and carers of under 5s.
  • How to disable in-app purchases – A step-by-step guide for preventing unauthorized in-app purchases on smartphones and tablets.
  • Look into parental controls – there are several software tools that allow you to monitor and limit your child’s activity online. They’re not free, but they do provide an extra layer of protection.

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