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5 expert tips from The Scots College on improving child cyber safety

The emergence of technology raises an interesting dichotomy for parents: on one hand, parents are concerned with the amount of time their boys spend using media technology. On the other, they are worried that if their sons don’t have the latest technology, and knowledge of how to use it, they will fall behind.

As Duncan Kendall, Assistant Head of the Preparatory School at The Scots College states, “we are the first generation internet parents. Our boys are the first generation to be born and raised with the internet as part of their daily lives.”

So the question for many parents now becomes: how do we encourage positive cyber experiences, both at home and at school? Here’s a few easy, expert tips from around the web to improve child cyber safety, and ensure your son is engaging with technology in a safe and constructive way:

Educate yourself first

To be able to effectively discuss cyber safety with your son, you first need to arm yourself with some facts and figures. There are so many resources available aimed at helping parents understand and talk to their children about internet safety, and a great one is internetsafeeducation.com

Start an early conversation

Nowadays, young children have almost immediate access to technology, such as their parent’s iPads and smartphones. Even these early interactions are shaping how these children will interact with technology as they grow older, so it is important to open up a dialogue about cyber safety as early as possible.

Set basic internet rules

Part of this early conversation around cyber safety will need to cover the risks involved in using technology. The second component is how to protect yourself from these risks. Here are a few key rules and guidelines you can implement:

  • Never give out identifying information.
  • Treat others online as you would treat them in person.
  • Never share your password.
  • Never open an email or click on a link from someone you don’t know.
  • Never download or click on anything without checking with a trusted adult first.

Manage screen time

The jury is out on the current recommended screen time for children. Recent research by the University of Western Australia suggests that the current Australian guidelines on maximum screen time for children need to be updated to reflect the technology heavy environment children currently live in.

Despite this conflict, the important message here is that parents need to set some rules around the quantity of screen time their son has, and ensure both them and their son are comfortable with this time allocation.

Talk about social media use

Linneyville.com has put together a great infographic on the minimum age for social media usage - for most social media platforms, the minimum age is 13. Parents need to be aware of this restriction when discussing social media with their children.

It’s important that social media is treated almost as a separate branch of cyber safety, given the unique environment it provides its users. Talk openly with your son about the risks of social media, such as cyberbullying, and get your son to talk you through their daily interactions. If something seems suspicious about the way they use social media, it may be time to intervene. Here are some signs to beware of:

  • Refusal to let you see their phone or their profile.
  • Recent change in online activity, such as a reduction in the number of posts. This may indicate something going on behind the scenes, or that they are filtering what you as a parent can see.
  • Change in self-esteem. This may be an early indicator of cyberbullying.
  • Increased time using social media.

Effective and appropriate use of technology for learning purposes is vital for the participation and growth of today's tweens (children aged 10 to 14). They are linked to one another and to the world via technology more than any previous generation. Implementing cyber safety guidelines is crucial to ensuring a positive online experience. 

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