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In today’s all-connected world, young people gravitate to the online space faster than their parents ever did. Between checking in on social media, chatting to their friends in Instant Messenger and showing off their creations on apps like Instagram, TikTok and SnapChat, the internet quickly becomes part of their day-to-day lives.

But the internet isn’t an entirely safe space; it can also be a place where young people are sent friend requests by complete strangers, where insensitive comments, videos and pictures can go viral; and where they can become the victims of cyberbullying.  During the time of national lockdown to stem the spread of Coronavirus and learning from home, many young people have been spending more time online than ever before, maintaining their studies through e-learning. This makes their online safety something every parent should focus on.

Fortunately, cyber savvy parents can take steps to teach online safety practices, by educating children and youngsters on looking out for internet pitfalls without parents having to look over their shoulders every five minutes. There are apps that aid parents in keeping an eye on their kids, as we will see below.

Follow these simple steps to safeguard your children’s online activity: 

Say no to strangers 

Just as you would advise young people to stay away from strangers when they’re not on their computers and smart devices, teach them to practice this behavior online. They should be made aware that, if approached by a stranger on social media, they should not accept friend requests or enter into chats with them. While it might be harmless, it is far better to be safe than sorry. Similarly, if a stranger online asks them to meet up, they should be taught to tell their parents or another trusted adult (teacher, relative) immediately.

Keep your passwords and personal invitation private 

Youngsters should be taught not to share any personal information online with either strangers or friends. This sort of data includes passwords, phone numbers, physical addresses, parent’s names, pet’s names and account information. Furthermore, parents should take note of their children’s passwords as well as any platforms and apps they are using. There are several apps parents can use to not only monitor their child’s app usage, but also set limits on how long they use their smart devices that are available. 

Set up parental controls 

A lot of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer parental controls to make surfing the web a safer activity for kids, so it’s worth investigating what options your ISP offers in this regard. Similarly a lot of software packages and smart device operating systems (OS) not only allow parents to filter content, but to monitor the content that their children are looking at. If your family owns a gaming console, you’ll find that you’re also able to set parental controls on those too.

Be mindful of the media you post 

Educate the youngsters in your life about the responsibilities surrounding posting pictures online. They should check with you and the people in the picture before posting so they have permission. This also goes for posting videos and other media. Aside from the fact that some people snapped or filmed may have issues with being posted online, the media may be mean or insensitive, which can lead to individuals feeling bullied online.

Check and double check security settings 

If their children are on social media, parents should check to see who can see their online profile. It’s worth educating your child about privacy settings, to make sure that only their friends can see what they post. Also make sure you keep alerts on for the social media T&C’s changes, which can change privacy settings every now and then.

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