Keeping kids safe online

From Nine To Noon, 11:31 am on 5 October 2017

Any IT retailer will help you buy parental control software, but the best firewalls are family values and a strong sense of self-worth, says cybersecurity expert John Parsons.

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Photo: andreypopov/123RF

Establish an open relationship with your child when they're young, Parsons says.

"The underlying thing that children need in a family is the ability to go and talk to Mum and Dad about anything that worries them."

Technology aside, a child who feels that they are loved and that compassion is expressed before judgement in their home will be more inclined to take care of themselves both online and offline, he says.

The American Pediatric Association recently recommended children younger than two should not be using technology or looking at a screen at all, and Parsons agrees.

Age three to five, they should have a maximum of one hour per day on a screen with an adult co-viewing, he says.

When the child is five to ten, start looking at the bigger picture.

"Is the child moving? Are they engaged? Do they go outside? Do they have friends around them?"

Devices should never be used, and especially not stored, in the bedroom.

It will be easier to establish this early than contend with changing the rules when your child reaches the higher-risk teenage years, he says.

Before a child gets into online gaming, tell them the following:

  • The minute anybody asks you questions that have got nothing to do with the game, stop communicating.
  • When people ask you for pictures of yourself if we don't know those people you don't send them.

To keep your child safe from online bullying encourage them to follow these three steps:

  • If anyone disrespects you online, stop communicating with them.
  • Take screenshots of what they've sent you.
  • Make a folder with all of the information and write on it the name of someone you love or trust. Then show it to them. "At the point of conflict, the child has formed a pathway to get help."

When a child does make a mistake online, parents' reactions can be overly dramatic, Parsons says.

"Too often I hear parents say to a child who's been a victim of a cybercrime 'You've put that picture online and you've ruined your life'. And that's not the way to deal with a victim."

Poor choices on the internet aren't age-specific, he says.

"For every child that I've worked with that's 9, 10 or 11 and has connected to a paedophile online or made a poor choice, I've worked with a senior citizen that may have given up $100,000 on a website."