WORDS: Susan McLean from Cyber Safety Solutions
Susan McLean is Australia’s foremost expert in the area of Cyber Safety and was a member of the Victoria Police for 27 years. Widely known as the ‘cyber cop’, she was the first Victoria Police Officer appointed to a position involving cyber safety and young people.
Children are digital natives, born into a world where they are constantly surrounded by technology and devices. Smart devices and social media sites have become part of our children’s lives and they strongly influence how children can learn, create, share and exchange information with others.
Despite the benefits technology brings, the online world does include substantial risks for children.
- They are tech savvy but lacking in ‘actual knowledge’ and cognitive development.
- It is their primary form of socialisation/communication
- They have no fear of technology or cyberspace.
- It is extremely important for them to be connected.
Understand the risk… and minimise it!
When you give a child a connected device, you are giving your child to the world and the world to your child. You must understand that there is a risk associated with the use of any device and as a parent you must be there to guide them.
The risks to your child can include cyberbullying, pressure to share nude images, grooming by predators, digital reputation issues and problematic gaming. Whilst you cannot remove the risk, you must identify, minimise and manage it.
Parenting in the digital space
This starts with being an active participant in your child’s online world, by setting rules and boundaries and knowing what they are doing online and where they are going just as you would in real life. Parenting in the 21st century requires you to be able to parent in the digital space.
There are ten things that you need to know about cyberspace and to teach your children.
- Respect, Responsibility and Reputation. If everyone used tech with respect and responsibility, there would not be ANY online issues.
- Cyberspace is a public place not a private space.
- Nothing can be totally deleted.
- You are never anonymous online – anonymity is a perception, and you can always be traced.
- You always leave a digital footprint. People will look you up online in order to form an opinion of you/your child.
- Manners maketh the man or women or child. If you wouldn’t say/do it to their face don’t do it online.
- Passwords must be shared with parents/guardians but NO ONE else.
- There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ app or website. The level of safety is linked to how it is used and what security settings are available.
- If there is anything that is bothering you then you CAN talk to a parent/guardian about it.
- There are laws online. All forms of online misuse can lead to police involvement and criminal charges.
The key is educating yourself and talking early and often. Remember, ‘no’ is a very important word and despite what your child says, you won’t be the only parent saying it, but in reality it doesn’t matter. Your child’s safety does!
For more information on caring for kids in an online world: