Pat Pilcher: Having the Internet safety talk

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Kids can be pretty observant and will notice things that you do online - be conscious of how you act online based on the guidelines you've set with the kids.
Kids can be pretty observant and will notice things that you do online - be conscious of how you act online based on the guidelines you've set with the kids.

Got teens or soon-to-be-teenagers in the house? Today is Safer Internet Day which means today might be a good time to have that chat about playing it safe online.

Nowadays that's a tough conversation as many parents feel somewhat behind the eight ball when it comes to talking about online safety to tech-savvy teens. Feeling your pain, we've crafted 5 tips to having an effective Internet safety conversation with the kids and making it work.

1. Make sure they understand that Internet safety is important

You wouldn't let your kids go out into town on their own at night, so why would you let them use the web unattended?

It's one thing for parents to understand the importance of Internet safety, but for any real talk to be truly effective, you need buy-in from your kids too. Make sure they understand what the risks are (e.g. stranger danger, online security and so on)

2. A little awareness goes a very long way

There's a huge amount of info on how to best play it safe online. Sites like Google's Family Safety Centre have a huge amount of tips and tricks that are massively useful for concerned parents. These range from guides to using Safe Search settings, through to creating robust and more secure passwords. Knowing some of this stuff can help you as a parent to help your family limit their exposure to the shadier side of the Internet.

3. Set some ground rules

Having educated the family on the risks associated with the Internet, laying down a few basic guidelines is also a good idea. These could consist of rules around social networking sites, through to which apps your teen can or cannot use.

These rules could be: allow parents to access the kids' social networking accounts any time, kids can't use the Internet in their bedroom, kids can't be online after 8:30pm - there's no gold standard, and these are likely to vary considerably from family to family.

4. Set a good example

Kids can be pretty observant and will notice things that you do online - be conscious of how you act online based on the guidelines you've set with the kids. This can range from issues such as using your smartphone at the dinner table or even leaving it unlocked. If you expect your kids to play it safe online, commit to playing it safe too. Set a good example they can follow.

5. Keep on keeping on

If playing it safe online becomes a one-off conversation, chances are that it won't be terribly successful. Because of this, the best thing to do to help your kids stay safer online is to be around when they're using the Internet as much as possible, and if not at least aim to also have regular conversations on how they're going online. Agree to weekly check-ins to make sure playing it safe online isn't just a flash in the pan. It's a great idea to keep the lines of communication open so your kids feel they can talk to you about anything they find disturbing online.

- NZ Herald

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