At The Polesworth School we take every opportunity via ICT lessons, School of Character sessions and Assemblies to ensure our students are well equipped to keep themselves safe online and to support their friends to do so. However, we are all too aware that much of their time online actually takes place out of school and sometimes those messages can be forgotten. Over the next few weeks, we are including some short pieces of online safety guidance to support parents so that we can work together to keep our young people safe. The first theme is social media, an ever more essential part of so many of our children’s lives.
You may be wondering when is the best age to let your child have a social media account, or have some concerns if they’re already using them. Remember, most social media services require users to be at least 13 years of age before they can register.
For advice and guidance, read Is your child ready for social media?
Most young people have positive experiences socialising online but it can be easy for young people to share things or post things online which in retrospect they wish they hadn’t. The simplest way to have information about your child removed from a website or app is to contact the site itself. Read reporting to social media sites for more information on how to do this.
Social media can offer young people opportunities to express themselves and have fun but they can also potentially be exposed to harmful content which might include sexual images or videos which could impact on their understanding of sex and relationships. For more information, read Teens and the sexual content on social media.
In school this year we have shared advice on how students can keep themselves safer online and have also detailed what they should do and who they can turn to for support if they make mistakes which they then regret. Please talk to your children about their use of social media to ensure they understand how to keep themselves safe and what to do if they find themselves in difficulty. Our confidential email firstname.lastname@example.org can be used by students to seek help anonymously or they can visit Student Services to see someone in person. Alternatively, the ‘Report Abuse’ button on our website home page can be used to report online abuse directly to CEOP the national Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency.
Online games are social activities, and most have features that allow young people to chat with others whilst they play. For information about the positives of gaming, the risks of ‘in-game chat’ and measures you can take to help protect them, watch this short video: In-game chat: a guide for parents and carers.
The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating system can be a useful tool to help you decide what online games are appropriate for your child.
For more information on the PEGI system and other factors to consider before deciding what’s suitable, read Gaming: what’s appropriate for your child.
Gaming is popular with both children and adults and can help to cure that lockdown boredom! If your child is gaming, you may have some questions about how to keep them safer. If so, check out – Gaming: what parents need to know.
For a guide on the apps, sites and games your child might enjoy, visit: Net Aware.
Sharing information, images and videos
Young people often share images or ‘selfies’ and there is potential for some of those to be nude or semi-nude images. Young people share ‘nudes’ for a number of different reasons and some situations are more risky than others.
For information about the contexts in which images are shared and how best to respond, take a look at Nude selfies: A parents’ guide.
If your child enjoys being online and uses social media apps, games and more, it’s important you know how to protect their personal information and support them to make safe choices about what they share online.
Personal information – A Guide for Parents and Carers and Your child’s personal information and how to protect it online – Secondary are both excellent articles which provide useful tips on how best to support your child.
Some of the most popular apps, sites and games are designed to make it easy to share information online. But once information is shared, you can never be sure who has seen it, saved it or shared it even further.
If your child has shared something online they wish they hadn’t – don’t panic. Read my child has shared too much online for advice on how to support your child.
Live streaming is now a very popular feature of many apps and platforms and all you need to livestream is an internet-enabled device like a laptop or a smart phone.
If your child enjoys livestreaming, you may want to read A short guide to livestreaming to find out more about it and help your child have a positive online experience.
Over the past few months, many young people will have watched a livestream, or taken part in a video chat. Livestreaming can be a fun and enjoyable online activity for young people and can benefit them socially and educationally if done safely.
Steps you can take to help keep your child safer online
Parental controls: Parental controls have been designed to help you manage your child’s online activities. There are various types, some of which are free but others which can be bought. However, nothing is totally fool proof so they shouldn’t replace the need for you to support and advise your child using the internet. For more information and step by step instructions on setting up parental controls, visit Parental Controls & Privacy Settings Guides – Internet Matters.
Have an ongoing conversation: Continue to talk about the apps, games and sites they like to use, and what they like and don’t like and any concerns about being online. Discuss with them when to unfollow, block or report. For help starting this conversation, read having a conversation with your child.
Be non-judgemental: Explain that you would never blame them for anything that might happen online, and you will always give them calm, loving support.
Make sure they know where to go for support: Remind your child they can always speak to you or an adult they trust if anything happens online that makes them feel worried or upset. For a breakdown of reporting services, visit: Supporting your child with reporting unwanted content online.
Make sure they know about NCA CEOP: Young people can report a concern about grooming or sexual abuse to NCA CEOP at https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/ and get support from a specialist Child Protection Advisor.
Talk about how their online actions can affect others: If your child is engaging with peers online, remind them to consider how someone else might feel before they post or share something. If they are considering sharing a photo/video of somebody else, they should always ask permission first.
Tell them about Thinkuknow: Our websites provide open and honest guidance for young people on friends, relationships and the internet, covering topics like dealing with pressure, consent, and getting support when you’re worried. Visit our website for 11-13’s or our website for 14+ for age appropriate information.
Direct your child to age-appropriate information about relationships and sex: It’s natural for young people to start exploring their sexual feelings online and adolescents are more inclined to take risks. It’s important to understand this and to talk to your child in a positive, encouraging and safe way. Thinkuknow, Brook, The Mix and Childline all provide age-appropriate information about relationships and sex that you can signpost your child to.