We speak to thousands of children in primary schools every year. One question that we always ask is how long it is since they last spoke to a parent about staying safe online. Alarmingly, so far this year, we’ve found that more than a third of these pre-teens have either never spoken to a parent about online safety or have not done so in the last year, despite nearly half of these being on social media and owning a smartphone.
The Internet is not a safe environment in which to leave a child unsupervised, without rules being set or regular conversations being had about what is okay and not okay to do online. Parental engagement is hugely important. The more often we speak to our kids about how to use technology in a smart and positive way, the more likely it is that they will grow up doing just that.
Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. This Safer Internet Day, we are delighted to launch our “Five things we need to talk about at home” flyer which we have developed with the support of Tusla and the Wicklow Children and Young People’s Services Committee.
We have sent this out to schools and hope to get a copy to every family in Ireland. It contains some important messages, including the need to protect our privacy online, keep things positive and maintain a healthy balance between what we are doing online and what we do in the real world. We cannot expect our kids to suddenly become smart, empathetic, resilient and safe when they are online. Speak to your child as often as you can about what they like and don’t like on the Internet, and make it clear that they can always come to you if they are worried or uncomfortable about anything. Be there with them as they navigate the Internet, and help them to become stronger, smarter and safer online.