Online safety and well-being for children in isolation

online safety

During this pandemic, we have all been ordered to stay at home. Why? It is the safest place to be right now. But with children at home too, the situation is a little more complicated. 

Schools and workplaces are closed, but nobody is actually on holiday. Homeworking parents will be expected to put in an 8-hour day, whilst home-schooling and supervising their children, in addition to maintaining a home. Parents have got a lot on their mind. 

Some parents will have been laid-off which brings additional stresses and worries.  We are all having to re-negotiate house rules and carve out space and quiet time. It would be understandable to relax some of the house rules. 

Children are likely to be using social media platforms to stay connected with friends. But they will also be using the internet for schoolwork, gaming, boxsets and chatrooms – there is going to be an increase in their online presence too. 

The Internet Investigation Report makes it clear: the true scale of offending and the number of children who have been victims of online child sexual abuse means we all need to take action to confront this problem, and this lock-down might be the best opportunity we have ever had to tackle it.

Parents and guardians need to know that the internet is not a safe place for children. There has been a rapid escalation in the number of children being groomed on social media platforms. 

16 TOP TIPS FOR KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE DURING LOCKDOWN:

  1. Start as you mean to go on, keep your child’s day as structured as possible.
  2. Limit smartphone time as if they were at school.
  3. In downtime, engage with your child. Ask them about messages from school friends and show interest in their news 
  4. Plan family time such as a film or walking the dog.
  5. Don’t let your child withdraw with their smartphone without checking in on them.
  6. When a laptop is not in use for video chat, cover the camera.
  7. Ensure children are dressed appropriately for video chat, in a suitable space within your home. 
  8. The bedroom or bathroom are NOT appropriate places for video chat.
  9. Be aware of what others can see in the background of your video call. 
  10. Ensure that you and your child log out completely after any video calls and if in doubt switch the laptop off after use. Do not leave your microphone, or camera switched on.
  11. Switch your devices off at night and leave them in a box in downstairs.
  12. Be wary about your children communicating with their headphones on – if your house environment allows it, ensure their speaker is audible to you.
  13. Go to the https://safetonetfoundation.org/ website: It’s packed with advice and guidance and app risk assessments for both parents and children. 
  14. Become Cyber Curious: Ask your child to teach you how to play video games or how different Apps work. The reason for this is to;
  • Learn about your child’s cyberlife and how they use the internet
  • Keep pace with your child’s rapidly changing world
  • Keep yourself up to speed on the latest Apps so you can identify risks ahead of time
  • Make conversations with your child about their online activities a natural and normal everyday occurrence.

15. Agree a family Contract: These are extraordinary times and to get through the lock-down there needs to be some re-negotiation of rules. This is the perfect time to come up with a contract / house agreement which are a great way to foster and encourage positive, responsible behaviour in an atmosphere of mutual respect and responsibility. Teenagers engage enthusiastically in this process, so be warned, you may get some interesting feedback and gain insights into your child’s view of the world. Providing you stick to whatever is agreed and enforce it, the family contract can strengthen the parent / child relationship.  There are some great examples of contract templates you can use but be sure to make it fun. 

16. During this lock-down phase, parents can download the SafeToNet App and install it on their child’s devices for free for 30 days. It won’t show parents what your child is doing, who they are talking to or what they are saying because it respects their child’s right to privacy, but it will show parents an indication of their child’s risk levels in relation to their online behaviour. 

Extra Facts:

  • The NSPCC estimates that half a million men in the UK may have viewed intimate images of children.
  • Around 750,000 individuals at any one time globally are estimated to look for sexual contact with children, according to the WeProtect Global Alliance.
  • UK law enforcement records more than 10 grooming offences per day, and arrests 400-450 individuals a month for online child sexual abuse or exploitation offences. 
  • Of 2,082 images and videos recorded by the IWF in August-October 2017, 96% depicted a child on their own, in a bedroom or bathroom.
  • 96% of the imagery depicted one or more girls
  • 69% of the imagery depicted children aged 11 to 13 years old and 28 % depicted children aged 7 to 10 years old.

You may want to read more on keeping children safe online in the digital age and tips to help mobile phone addiction with children.

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