Do you want to help your child deal with problems created by the internet? Catherine Goodwin, assistant head teacher at St Ignatius College, Enfield, shares her tips
- Think about online safety in the same way as everyday safety. Parents who wouldn’t let their children out on their own will often buy them a phone or a tablet, and have no idea what they are looking at on these devices.
- Keep up-to-date with app changes. The apps young people use are always changing and it’s difficult to keep up with them. Take WhatsApp, for example. Children can add people they’ve never met to their WhatsApp group – hundreds of children they don’t necessarily know – and have no idea what these people will do with a message or picture after they’ve sent it. Try to monitor the WhatsApp conversations that your child is having and who they are speaking to.
- Ask if you can look at your child’s phone occasionally so that you can check their messages, WhatsApp conversations, photos and videos. This should be part of a contract between you and your child when you buy them a phone.
- Show an interest in their digital habits and encourage them to tell you what apps they use or groups they belong to. If your child is very reluctant to show you what’s on their phone, trust your instinct.
- Talk to them about the kinds of things they are looking at. That’s the most important thing you can do.
- Be honest and direct with them. And emphasise that it’s for their safety and their benefit that you’re taking an interest.
- Have an action plan in place and make sure that your children know what to do if they get themselves into trouble online.
- Let them know they can tell you anything. Sometimes, young people get into situations they think no one else has ever been in, and they’re too embarrassed to tell anyone. But, once they’ve told you, however shocked you are, don’t show it.