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In our GoStudent expert talks we speak to experts in the field of education! Find out more on real-life insights from leaders in the ed-industry. 🚀
Parenting is no piece of cake. Stress-free digital parenting is an even bigger challenge. Add a pandemic into the mix and even the most patient and resilient parents are feeling stretched. 🤯
Before COVID-19 there was only a part of students’ lives that was online. Now from schooling to staying in touch with friends kids are digitally active through the day!
We at GoStudent are aware of the risks of being online. That is why we ensure a safe digital learning setting for every student.
🔥 Expert Tip : “The longer they're [children] online, the more things they're doing online. So there is more scope for them to encounter inappropriate content,” says London-based David Emm, the Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky – a multinational cybersecurity provider.
But what is online safety or internet safety? And how can you teach your kids to be safe on the internet? 🤔
Online safety means protecting yourself and others from online harms and risks that can affect your physical, emotional or mental health.
Why are students not safe on the internet?
Wakefield-based Catherine Knibbs, a psychotherapist specializing in cyber trauma, says that there is a “naivety about the online space being safe”. That is why both teachers and parents haven’t paid enough attention to teaching children to be safe online.
For parents the more important question also remains : how do you manage the work/life/parenting balance while ensuring that your children are always safe online?
It might feel impossible, but it isn’t.
We’re here to show you some easy ways on how your child can stay safe online.
How can students stay safe on the internet?
👉 Treat The Online World As The Offline World
✳️ “So what did you do at school today?”
✳️ “What lessons did you learn?”
✳️ “What were you playing with your friends in the garden?”
🔥 Expert Tip : “We ask such questions implicitly because there's a want, a need and an urge to know our children are safe,” says Knibbs. “When it comes to the online world, we forget to ask those questions about that space.”
So here are a few questions you can ask about students digital life:
✳️ “What game are you playing?”
✳️ “Who do you talk to on the online chat?”
✳️ “How does snapchat work? “Can you show it to me?”
🔥 Expert Tip: “Young people love to show off their knowledge,” says Knibbs. “Especially to their parents.”
As our expert suggests, your children are excited to tell you more about the tools they are using and discovering online!
We’ve also heard from our experts who are parents themselves, that taking an active interest in their child’s digital life has many advantages. Like students are more likely to confide in you if something is bothering them online. Parents also get to know of any verbal or non-verbal cues that could indicate that something is harming students on the internet.
So this way you become the guiding figure of online safety for them. Just like you already are in real life.
Taking interest in students’ online life is also a far more organic way to gain their trust. As if you are going to have a sit-down with students and talk about e-safety, they are hardly going to listen! 🙅♀️
👉 Make Technology A Shared Family Experience
There is a temptation amongst parents to use technology as a way to keep students busy or off their hands for a while. As how else are you going to get any work done if kids are home all day and there’s little else for them to do?
At GoStudent we encourage a different approach. Our experts advise that instead technology can be made into a family experience!
Here are few ways to do it:
✳️ Keep devices in shared family spaces like the living room instead of private bedrooms. Like you’d play Lego with your children, parents can play a game with students on the device or even watch a movie together.
If you’d like students to learn online but can’t always be with them, try one of our tutoring classes here. We make sure that each student is safe in their digital space.
✳️ If you are online with your child then you will be able to guide them if they come across inappropriate content. This also helps them make safe digital decisions when they are older and online on their own.
So parents, don’t shy away from discussing sensitive topics like sex, violence or depression online if it pops on your screen.
🔥 Expert Tip: “I think from a very young age, we need to ensure that we engage with our children in social and online activities,” says Emm. “So by the time they get to 10 + years there's that relationship of trust. Where if they are being bullied online or if they're encountering something that makes them uncomfortable or worse [on the internet], then they're likely to come to you [parent] and share that with you. You become the trusted go-to person.”💪
👉 Be Your Child’s Tech Support
Getting equipped with the right digital tools and knowledge, will make parents and students feel safe in the online world!
If as parents you don't know about technology you are less likely to ask the questions that will keep students safe online. Even students will find it difficult to ask for your help regarding digital platforms.
So how can you and your child become ready for safety in the online world together?🤔
✳️ Introduce the digital life to students yourself!
Do they need an online account for a game that you approve of? Sign them up for it! You can also use this as an opportunity to talk about passwords and the dangers of sharing it with other people.
✳️ Learn together about the different apps and games your child enjoys!
After which you can also read about these platforms or explore them yourself. When you talk about students’ digital interests from a place of knowledge, they are sure to trust your advice on safety too!
✳️ Become familiar with internet connected device before students use them.
Or else you might struggle with the gaps in online safety that the device could present for your child. Students might also not seek help from their parents if they know that parents don’t know how to operate devices. 😕
👉 Use Parental Control With Communication
🔥 Expert Tip: To maintain a sense of trust and communication with students, Emm advises that “it's really, really important to communicate to children when you are putting parental control in place.”
So have a conversation with students about why and how you are using parental control on the devices they use. This way they will feel empowered and independent by this knowledge.
Some ways that parental control can be used to keep students safe online:
✳️ Disabling in-app purchases to avoid child credit fraud.
✳️ Timers for the device or certain apps. So students aren’t browsing unmonitored for too long.
✳️ Blocking sites that are dangerous or for 18+
✳️ Put passwords on the wifi or devices themselves if students are too young to browse on their own.
✳️ Disable the entry of intimate details like name, age and address to keep student identity safe.
Though parental control certainly begins to lose its importance as students get older and need to be given more digital freedoms.
Also parental controls only apply to individual households. Once lockdowns are lifted the digital access kids have outside their homes could be far more.
So parental control is only a good temporary fix. It doesn’t replace communication and trust in digital life with your child.
👉 Monitor Online Browsing
🔥 Expert Tip: “Certainly I tend to say for anybody under the age of about twelve or thirteen, that they shouldn't really have devices in their room on their own, because of the propensity of coming across unwanted content,” says Knibbs.
As parents it’s difficult to constantly monitor your child’s digital activity. Especially without them feeling like you are controlling them or sacrificing some alone-time yourself.
Some of the ways you can ditch both these guilt-trips and still ensure e-safety:
✳️ Encourage device usage in shared spaces of the house like the kitchen and living room. Somewhere where the adults can see that the kids are safe.
✳️ If you are letting younger children browse on their own, go through their online history from time to time. This helps you guide them in case they’ve come across something harmful.
We'd encourage parents to let younger kids know why they are going through their browsing history and they can also go through it with them. This way you can again build trust and communication with each other. 🤝
We know parents might be apprehensive about intruding on their child’s privacy through online monitoring. Yet our experts advise this as younger kids’ curiosity is far more developed than their sense of caution.
👉 Manage Your Child’s Social Media
There are differing opinions on whether or not parents should allow their kids to be on social media. There is ofcourse immense peer pressure for students to be on them. In an on-going pandemic sometimes it’s also the only way for kids to feel connected with their friends. 🤝
Yet adult content also circulates on social media.
🔥 Expert Tip: “Age ratings for many [social media] platforms are to do with data protection and privacy laws,” says Knibbs. “They're not to do with the age at which a child can manage the content on them.”
So Knibbs advises that before parents allow students to sign up for any social media platform they should sign up for it themselves. Then see what kind of content is being shared. This way you are making a choice from a point of awareness. Parents are then in a better position to manage their child’s safety on a particular social media platform.
Here are some quick tips on how to help students use social media safely and responsibly:
✳️ Advise students not to accept friend requests or chat with strangers.
Kids can be tempted to interact with people who do not belong to their inner circle. This is because a lot of times the number of friends or followers one has on social media becomes a “popularity contest” amongst their peers.
✳️ Ask students not to post personal information like their address or phone number on social media. While also having a chat with them on the potential dangers of doing so.
✳️ As a parent become a friend or contact in your child’s social media circle. So you know about the kind of content they are sharing and absorbing online.
For many parents this might feel they are being intrusive of their kids’ private lives. Older children might even resist involving parents in their social media life. But experts feel this is an essential step because social media platforms are like the real world – a mix of happy and harmful spaces for your child.
You wouldn’t let your kids go to an 18+ nightclub alone and expect them to be safe, would you? 🤔
Then that’s the same for social media.
👉 Get External Support
In a dynamically changing digital age, you can’t have all the answers on keeping your kids safe online. If you are struggling, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.
There are many organisations and people dedicated to keeping children safe online. Here are a few great organisations that you could reach out to:
👉 Safety In Online Classrooms
According to our experts online learning is a far more regulated space than other areas of students’ digital life!
🔥 Expert Tip: “The pandemic has shown us that for children online learning platforms are a real saviour,” says Emm. “At least there is an opportunity for them to engage with some learning activities and interaction with their peers. This wouldn’t be the case if we were going through COVID-19 twenty years ago. So I think the benefits [of online learning] are huge.”
Emm does not see virtual classrooms as “dangerous” as long as there are a few controls in place. Some of them are:
✳️ The virtual platform should not expose students to computer malware.
✳️ There's no opportunity for any strangers to gain access to the classroom and interact with children.
✳️ Students are able to voice concerns that are making them unhappy and keep it confidential with their online teachers.
Our Advice: The dynamics of technology from platforms to the way they are used will keep changing. But some ways of how to keep students safe online never will. Some of these are:
✅ Treat your children’s online life like their offline life. So as parents be involved, interested and present there!
✅ Communication builds trust between children and parents. Which leaves fewer gaps in online safety.
✅ Let computing time be a shared family experience. So you are present to guide students when they are online.
✅ Be part of your child’s social media circle so you are aware of the content they share and absorb.
At GoStudent, our tutors ensure the highest level of e-safety in our virtual classrooms. We also provide a safe space for students and parents to address any concerns they might have on their online safety. You can book a trial lesson with one of our tutors here!
Payal is a GoStudent learning expert in the areas of mental health and digital learning. She drives our “Expert Series” where she talks to a global network of educational professionals. She presents the knowledgeable insights of these experts as a guide for parents, so they can support students to achieve their highest potential! Payal is an English literature graduate, edtech content writer and journalist. Her stories have been featured in The Guardian, The Washington Post & Al Jazeera, amongst others. You can read more of her work on www.payalmohta.com