Digital Parenting

( Published: 28/01/2020)
If you search online for ‘help, children, mobile, phones’ you are swamped with sites, downloads, videos and advice that can all seem a bit over-whelming, but you don’t need to be an expert to help your child online if you focus on a few key questions.

Key Questions

  1. Do you know what your child is doing online?
  2. Are there rules about when they can use their device?
  3. Do they know what to do if something goes wrong?
  4. Can they keep themselves and their information safe?
  5. Are they careful about their own digital reputation?
  6. Do they know how to decide if something is true or if someone is genuine?

This section is designed to pick out some of the more helpful sites and resources to support parents with these conversations. Internet Matters have some useful advice for parent’s concerns with social media as well as parental controls. Meanwhile, Vodaphone produce useful resources with a digital parenting magazine.

  1. Do you know what your child is doing online?
  2. Start with the positives. The Internet is an exciting place to be with social networks, games and apps that are used and enjoyed by millions of people every day. Don’t go straight into criticising the things that they like. You may not understand the appeal but if you are dismissive it may stop your child talking about any online activity. Have you asked your children what apps they use? Why do they like them? Do they understand what is suitable or age-appropriate for them?

    Need some help understanding what’s out there?

    • InternetMatters (working with a wide coalition of industry partners) has a ‘Guide to Apps’ written for parents
    • Common Sense Media – publish lists of review for thousands of apps, websites and games
    • National Online Safety produce easy to read guides for parents (free but requires a sign-in)

  3. Are there rules about when they can and can’t use their device?
  4. It is best to start as you mean to go on and start these conversations as soon as your child gets a phone or tablet of their own. If you start them off with good habits it can reduce the arguments if you try to impose time limits when they get a bit older. Most importantly is the discussion about why the rules are needed and an agreement (from both sides) about what is going to be acceptable.

    Do you have a family agreement about when your child is allowed to use their device? Do you model good behaviour yourself?

    Parental Control apps and service can help you track your child’s usage. Most services allow you to control screen time, track location and block/allow apps. Most have help sections and demos. Pick the one that is most suitable for your devices, your family size and your family budget:

    • Google Family Link (all platforms) controls some aspects of device use. Free but parent and child need a Google account
    • Apple Parental Controls (Apple) controls most aspects of device use. Free (part of the phone’s settings) but you need to set up a family group and parents and children need Apple IDs
    • OurPact (Android) controls all aspects of device use. Free for 1 device with packages from $1.99 to $6.99 per month
    • Qustodio (all platforms) controls all aspects of device use. Free for 1 device with packages from £3 to £7.75 per month
    • At home? Your Internet provider will be able to help you set up controls on your home internet. If they are not listed on this page then contact them via their website and ask for help

  5. Do they know what to do if something goes wrong?
  6. Unfortunately, most people will see something unpleasant online at some point in their lifetime, but does your child know what to do when they come across something that upsets them? The main thing is that if they do see something your child is confident about getting help.

    • Most sites allow users to quickly report and block inappropriate posts, messages or accounts. Ask your child what they would do if…
    • Report Harmful Content is a site dedicated to helping you report when you see harmful content online (click ‘Report’ on the menu in the top right)
    • Thinkuknow have a helpful guide to explain how to report to the major social networks
    • CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) helps young people who are being sexually abused or are worried that someone they’ve met is trying to abuse them
    • True Vision (run by National Police Chiefs’ Council) helps report online hate crimes to the police
    • Childline offer support to all children including online safety
    • Kooth offer free, safe and anonymous online support until 10pm

  7. Can they keep themselves and their information safe?
  8. Children often don’t understand how important it is to keep their information protected online. Often, apps encourage students to open security settings to get new features e.g. open location data settings to get a Geofilter. The companies then use this data to push adverts or content to your child based on where they are. Here are a few top tips for keep data private.

    • Make sure your child knows how to set a strong password and remind them how important it is not to share – even with their ‘best friend’. Check out the advice at the National Cyber Security Centre
    • Remind them to lock their phone and don’t share the PIN code. Children sometimes even lend their phone to a friend for the whole school day – make sure your child knows to avoid doing this
    • Check your settings. The Safer Internet Centre has some guides to popular platforms but the same ideas crop up time and time again:
      • Start with everything locked down and unlock it as you become more confident
      • Keep checking which apps have access to your location data, photos etc. Turn it off or change it to ‘Whilst Using’ so that data isn’t given away too easily
      • Be aware of who is in your friends lists or accounts that are following you and ‘unfriend’ or block any accounts from people you don’t know
      • Check, check and check again – every app is different and some new updates switch some services back on again as part of the upgrade
    • Don’t follow, like or click without thinking. Watch this video on how easily people were tricked into revealing data from one ‘Like’ on a Facebook page for a free coffee
    • Remember that there is no such thing as ‘private’ on the Internet. Once something has been shared you lose all control and you can never truly delete something from social media. Be cautious not careless

  9. Are they careful about their own digital reputation?
  10. This video from ‘LiveMyDigital’ presents a great overview of why it is important to keep thinking about their digital footprint. There’s also a student version of this video.

    • Get them to think about how their profile appears online. Try looking at their account as someone who isn’t their ‘friend’ online. What does their account reveal? How do they appear in their profile picture? What impression are they giving?
    • Remember that your digital footprint is there for life so ‘Be kind online’!

  11. Do they know how to decide if something is true or if someone is genuine?
  12. Fake news is big news, but do your children know how to spot if something is real or not? Fake news articles can be created to get you to click on links or other stories and push adverts to you. Other stories are created to deliberately spread viewpoints or even hate. Whatever the reason, your child needs to be able to tell what is real and what is not.

    • Talk to them. Encouraging your child to share the stories they find with you will help them start to think about key questions:
      • Do they think it is true? Why?
      • Can they find the same information from a different site?
      • Why do they think this was created?

      This leaflet from Internet Matters is a great information sheet to use to explain fake news to children.

    • Get them thinking. Play the BBC iReporter game here and try to put together a news report quick! Players have to make quick decisions about what is true and what needs exploring further

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