The internet has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Working, shopping and even socialising all now take place over the internet, so we need to ensure we are being as safe as possible when using our laptops, tablets and phones.
But with being online and social media becoming the norm, younger generations are using the internet more than ever too, potentially leaving themselves vulnerable and open to attack. New data from a UK Safer Internet Centre survey found that 8-17 year olds believe the internet plays a pivotal role in their social lives, with the majority (83 per cent) expressing positive experiences.
However, 49 per cent of youngers have said that someone has been mean to them online at least once in the last year, with one in 12 experiencing this most or all the time. Over half of youngsters surveyed also said they felt isolated when they couldn’t speak to their friends online. Even though 72 per cent of children want their schools to teach them about internet safety, the risks of your children using social media and being online are evident.
There are steps you can take to help ensure they are using the internet as safely as possible to ensure they aren’t putting their emotional and mental well-being at risk.
Facts, not fiction
Social media gives your child the chance to broadcast themselves to the online world, so they may feel pressured into changing how they are perceived. The likes of editing images with filters and lying about their hobbies and interests could leave young people open to attacks and abuse from others – essential other users may realise they are being ‘fake’ and take it upon themselves to let everyone else know.
As a parent, you can promote an ethos of your child embracing who they are online. Their school friends will already know about their personality and traits, so try not let them be someone they are not on their social media channels.
Only befriend real-life friends
Although 35% of young people surveyed by the UK Safer Internet Centre feel they don’t need to use social media to make friends, online popularity is still a big issue. Having the most friends or getting the biggest number of likes on a post are at the forefront of teenage social interaction, but your child has to be careful who they engage and interact with.
Befriending someone online who they don’t know can a dangerous move. By making your child aware of the risks involved in becoming friends with a stranger, it can act as a deterrent. Tell them that you are there to support them and offer advice if they are contacted by someone they don’t know.
Taking a break
Everyone can be guilty of spending too much time staring at their phone, refreshing social media feeds for the latest posts and news. This can impact children massively, especially if they’ve posted something and are waiting to see how many likes they’ve got. It can add stress and anxiety to their online experience (two in five 8-17 year olds say they have felt these emotions online in the last week) which may lead to more serious issues further down the line.
Offering to take them out for the afternoon, or asking them to help you with a household task will make your child put their phone down and focus on actual social interaction, rather than just being online. It’ll also show them that you don’t have to be glued to the internet all the time.
Find out more information about how you can get involved in improving internet safety for your family here.