In this article we're going to answer some of the common questions we get around 'having the chat with your kids'. We'll cover off;
- When to have the chat
- How often you should be speaking to them about online safety
- Our top tips on broaching the subject
When should we speak to our kids about online safety?
As soon as they start using their first tablet autonomously. We say 'autonomously' because for the first few years of their lives they'll no doubt be using tablets or phones to play games or watch movies and they won't deviate from these activities (they'll be very young). As soon as they start exploring elsewhere on the device or using a web browser, you can start speaking to them about staying safe online.
Use car journeys to your advantage! Something that works for many is to broach the subject when sitting in the car together (ideally when someone else is driving). This allows you to bring the subject up casually and they can engage without too many distractions.
How often you should be speaking to them about online safety
It's going to be tempting to get the 'talk' done and dusted but this won't be overly effective. It needs to be conversation you start early and continue into their teenage years. Don't worry about setting hard and fast targets around how often these conversations should be happening - this will result in more stress for you than is necessary.
Some of the conversations might be fleeting 'micro' chats about a news story or anecdote of something that happened to them at school. They don't (shouldn't) always be super formal sit down chats. Why? This positions the parent in the sole authority position which for internet safety isn't helpful - we need to know as parents how they're seeing the internet, how they find it and interact with others online. Without this two way conversation, the value reduces to next to nothing.
So the answer is probably monthly. Don't pressure yourself to have it weekly - sometimes life just gets in the way!
Our top tips on broaching the subject
Try not to overthink it - this is a marathon, not a sprint. It's often just having a conversation like you would about their day at school.
- Request a demo! Ask your child to show you how to play that game they love or how Facebook works. Let them teach you.
- Lead by example. Get your own house in order. Ensure you have installed anti-virus software on your devices, don't share password with anyone, install a password manager.
- Be direct and use their language. Asking a child "Have you ever been cyber bullied?" probably will invoke a 'No' response purely because they don't understand or aren't familiar with the term 'cyber bullying' and not because they haven't actually suffered from it. Ask them "What things worry you about being online?" Notice we didn't ask "Is there anything..." - use open questions that require a detailed response, not closed questions which can be answered with a yes or no answer.
- Stay informed. Our kids will always be more technologically adept than we are - it's just the way of the world. However, we should do our best to stay as abreast as we can to ensure we are able to still talk the same language that they can and be able to relate. Drop into our monthly Q&A calls from time to time and read our Threat Alerts that we issue to ensure you're kept up to date.
- Empathise and share your own vulnerabilities. Tell them a time when you were bullied or people were unkind to you. It doesn't have to have been online, you can still make parallels between your experience and theirs. This is incredibly powerful at making them feel like 'they're not alone'.
- Use analogies to relate. Cyber security concepts such as computer viruses and passwords can be difficult for young children to get their heads around. To better explain these concepts, use analogies to make it 'real' for them. For example, explain that giving your Facebook password to a friend a school is similar to giving away the house key to the front door at home.
- Ask them which adults they trust. This can be a very revealing exercise both in terms of who they say they don't trust (and why) but also who they do trust, but probably shouldn't. This can lead on to good conversations about critical thinking and helping them make up their own minds about what is good or bad online.
- Ask them to identify which online friends they've never met. The right answer should be "I don't have any" but careful, we're not purposely trying to trick them. Expect them to show you a few and you can calmly and in a non-accusatory manner reinforce why we should only ever accept requests from people we know in real life.
- Show them how to use safety features. Show your kids how to use reporting, blocking and muting functionalities on social media sites. This will help them manage anything untoward going forward when you may not be around.
- Listen. A common point of angst is when we don't let our kids use an app for website that doesn't appear to be age appropriate. Listen to their reasons why they want to use it - they may surprise you with what they have to say.
- Reflect on your own role. There are a number of different roles we can play as a parent when educating our kids;
- For more on each of these roles and how they work, see our information here.