» Ex­pert ad­vice on keep­ing your kids safe on­line

SO­CIAL ME­DIA AND THE IN­TER­NET ARE PART OF LIFE – BUT GUID­ING YOUNG­STERS ON US­ING IT SAFELY CAN BE TRICKY. LISA SALMON SEEKS SOME EX­PERT AD­VICE

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS -

CHIL­DREN aren’t of­fi­cially al­lowed to use most so­cial me­dia plat­forms un­til they are 13 – but the re­al­ity is, for many of them, it’s a part of the on­line world they’re ven­tur­ing into much ear­lier.

Yougov re­search shows that nearly half of chil­dren (48%) are aware of so­cial me­dia by the age of seven, with a third say­ing they’d looked at or used so­cial me­dia by that age.

Even when young­sters are tech­ni­cally old enough to have their own ac­counts, it can still be a tricky land­scape to nav­i­gate.

For par­ents, the is­sue of pro­tect­ing chil­dren on­line of­ten fo­cuses on safety – which is, of course, very im­por­tant, but it’s not the only fac­tor to con­sider.

“Talk­ing to chil­dren about the dos and don’ts of be­ing on­line can be tricky. It can be hard to gauge when and what to talk to your chil­dren about,” says He­len Lam­prell, gen­eral coun­sel and ex­ter­nal af­fairs di­rec­tor of Voda­fone UK.

The telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions provider re­cently launched a new Dig­i­tal Par­ent­ing on­line guide and #Goldilocks – a retelling of the clas­sic fairy tale in the dig­i­tal age, to help teach kids about re­spon­si­ble so­cial me­dia use.

“What of­ten gets over­looked is guid­ance on be­ing kind to oth­ers, how so­cial me­dia can af­fect self-es­teem, and gen­eral tips on shar­ing in­for­ma­tion re­spon­si­bly – es­pe­cially about friends and fam­ily,” adds He­len.

“Set a few key rules to start off with, which you dis­cuss and chat through as a fam­ily, and try and see things from their point of view.

“Don’t tell them it’s ridicu­lous to care about ‘likes’ – if it mat­ters to them, it mat­ters.”

So where should you start? Here are some tips from Dig­i­tal Par­ent­ing (voda­fone. co.uk/dig­i­tal­par­ent­ing) to help chil­dren stay safe and re­spon­si­ble on­line...

1 WHEN ARE THEY OLD ENOUGH?

SO­CIAL plat­forms like Snapchat, Twit­ter, In­sta­gram and Face­book re­quire users to be 13+ (16 for What­sapp), but th­ese sites and apps can’t ver­ify age.

You can man­age ac­ces­si­bil­ity with parental con­trols, but if your child is in­ter­ested in so­cial me­dia at an ear­lier age, it’s best to be open and dis­cuss their mo­ti­va­tions and whether it’s re­ally the right time for them.

Re­mem­ber, al­low­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple to com­ment on their posts can af­fect their self-es­teem, so con­sider whether they’re ready for this.

2 WORK AS A TEAM

IN­VOLVE your chil­dren when dis­cussing and cre­at­ing dig­i­tal house­hold rules, so they feel heard. Lis­ten­ing to your child and their needs around tech­nol­ogy will help them re­mem­ber, en­force and re­spect what you agree on.

Be con­sis­tent with rules – for ex­am­ple, if you agree to not al­low phones at the ta­ble or bed­room, ei­ther stick to it or make a point of chang­ing the rule.

3 THINK ABOUT GRANNY

EN­COUR­AGE your child to fol­low the ‘Granny Rule’: If you wouldn’t be happy with your granny see­ing it, don’t post it.

It will get your child think­ing be­fore shar­ing some­thing they may re­gret – es­pe­cially as it could be on­line for­ever.

Dig­i­tal Par­ent­ing’s dig­i­tal bed­time story #Goldilocks is use­ful tool for in­tro­duc­ing chil­dren to the topic of over­shar­ing.

4 FIND REA­SON BE­HIND RULES

SET bound­aries for your chil­dren which are both ageap­pro­pri­ate and rea­son­able.

Chat to a few of your chil­dren’s friends’ par­ents and find out what rules they’re set­ting.

If your rules are vastly dif­fer­ent from their friends’, you may want to re-eval­u­ate.

5 EX­PLORE SAFETY FEA­TURES FIRST

MOST so­cial me­dia sites have their own safety fea­tures and re­port­ing pro­ce­dures. If your child is set­ting up a new so­cial me­dia ac­count, help them ex­plore th­ese set­tings and tools.

Some of the most im­por­tant in­clude se­lect­ing the right pri­vacy and se­cu­rity op­tions, and check­ing how to block or re­port cer­tain users if some­thing goes wrong on­line.

6 EN­GAGE IN THEIR WORLD

AROUND 60% of chil­dren say par­ents don’t dis­cuss is­sues around dig­i­tal life. Main­tain an open and hon­est di­a­logue, and try to un­der­stand your child’s on­line world by ask­ing about their favourite vlog­ger, game or ac­tiv­ity.

7 BE AWARE OTH­ERS CAN SEE YOUR LO­CA­TION

LO­CA­TION ser­vices on apps can be a fun and in­ven­tive way of show­ing friends and fam­ily where you are.

But if your child doesn’t turn off set­tings on cer­tain apps, oth­ers can track their where­abouts in real time.

It’s im­por­tant to help your child man­age their lo­ca­tion set­tings, so they’re only shar­ing their lo­ca­tion when they want to. For ex­am­ple, Snapchat users can switch to ‘Ghost Mode’ to avoid be­ing tracked.

8 NOT ALL FOL­LOW­ERS CAN BE TRUSTED

TALK to your child about only ac­cept­ing friend re­quests and other in­ter­ac­tions from peo­ple they know and trust.

En­cour­age them to ex­plore set­tings to limit who can see their posts.

It’s bet­ter that only peo­ple they know and get on with can view, like or com­ment on their posts and ac­tiv­ity.

9 GET CRE­ATIVE

HELP your child make the most of the in­ter­net by sug­gest­ing apps and on­line tools that can help them un­leash their cre­ativ­ity, keep ac­tive or learn more about the world. There are a wealth of apps that can let your chil­dren find out more about na­ture, go on scav­enger hunts or get sketch­ing – there are even apps that in­cen­tivise chores so it’s a win-win for any mum or dad.

10 THINK TWICE BE­FORE CLICK­ING

TELL your child to al­ways be wary of open­ing links they’re sent in pri­vate mes­sages.

Even if it ap­pears to be a mes­sage from a friend, their friend’s ac­count may have been hacked, and the link could be a scam or lead them to an in­ap­pro­pri­ate site.

If in doubt, check the link URL – if you don’t recog­nise the web­site or it looks sus­pi­cious, avoid click­ing on it.

He­len Lam­prell, gen­eral coun­sel and ex­ter­nal af­fairs di­rec­tor of Voda­fone UK

Think about granny be­fore you post or share any­thing

Work with your kids to cre­ate dig­i­tal rules for your home

If your rules are vastly dif­fer­ent to those of your child’s friends, you may want to re-eval­u­ate

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