Why online safety education with children should start early and never stop!

Why online safety education with children should start early and never stop! 150 150 Jane Evans

When should we start?

Children are going to go on social media. That’s why we need to be educated in all the latest apps that spring up like weeds. Most of your children’s friends will be on something, and will share their phones etc.

My son is grown up now. If he was young nowadays. I’d be educating him from the start, that in real life, and online there are many wonderful and interesting people and things to look at and learn about. But, that there are also mean adults who want to harm us.

I’d teach my son what harm can be in all its forms. Not to scare him, but to educate him whilst using age appropriate language and tools.

Jayneen Sanders books are fantastic, Body Safety Education for Parents My Body What I Say Goes! Also the NSPCC PANTS campaign. You can always search online for books, blogs, helplines and resources to use with older children too.

It’s important to be clear about:
  • What online, and real life, grooming might look and sound like. Include ways and words that might be used
  • What feelings your child might notice – some might be warm ones, as very often the predator is very kind to start with
  • How they will pretend to be their friend
  • That they might tell lies about how old they are, where they live, who they are
  • Why and how they will be really interested in THEM
  • What THEY do, like, don’t like, where they live, go to school, their friends, any falling-out they have with  parents/carers or friends.
  • That they might say how beautiful their hair is, comment on clothing, ask to see a bruise or scratch they NOTICE on their neck/hair/shoulder etc.
  • How over time this may progress to asking them to do things that make them feel a bit strange
  • Why if you hesitate or say, NO, or I don’t want to. The person will pretend to be sad, or that they feel they don’t like them now, “I really thought you were my friend/I was already so sad as my cat died today…”or may get cross and scary.
What can we do early and ALWAYS?!

Focus on being emotionally connected with our children. So, they ALWAYS come to us if something is bothering them. They do this without fear of shame, punishment or being laughed at because we LISTEN and give our FULL ATTENTION to them as often as is humanly possible.

Protecting children means:

  • Raising children to be able to connect the feelings they have in their bodies with words, as this will help them tell a trusted adult if things feel wrong in any small way.
  • Nurturing children’s intuition gut instinct as it is STRONG when they are young and will remain so if we don’t teach them to ignore or doubt it.
  • Having a simple, clear plan you create with them of what they do the moment something doesn’t feel OK.
  • Encourage them to write/draw it out. Revisiting it regularly and smiling through the “I know!!”
  • Make sure they have a copy on their wall, phone, tablet and so do you.
  • Being aware that YOU-TUBE is full of the most horrifically graphic content and often these are hidden behind titles children would innocently look under.
  • Keeping children OFF social media for as long as is possible as they don’t need it.
  • They can text and FaceTime friends in the same room as you.
  • Being ready to regularly authentically, empathize with feelings they may have about being the only one not on…

Once children, (hopefully only as young teens) are on social media, (NOT FORGETTING ONLINE GAMING SITES) Then it would be worth following the celebs they do (don’t make a big thing of it). To see the kind of things they post so you have an idea what your child is being exposed to!

Keep an active presence in your teenager’s digital experiences

As children develop we have to become more able to not get hurt by eye rolling, shrugs, outbursts, being ignored. It will happen. But not because they don’t love us!

Moving past these slowly and carefully. It is essential to regularly check in with them about life in general, and stuff online. Then you are more likely to sense if things are troubling them. If they don’t want to speak with you. Be sure to give them helpline numbers if anything should overwhelm or trouble them, you could make it more for them to have for their friends.

Keep up to date.

Seek professional advice if you are floundering.

There is a HELL of a lot of stuff going on online so check out things with other parents and carers and anyone you know who is up to speed with the latest must-have app

NSPCC Keeping children safe online

NSPCC PANTS Guidance for early years and childcare settings

NSPCC Talk PANTS for parent’s guide

Think You Know? (TEENS)

Young Minds UK (for any mental health needs which can arise from online use and abuse)

Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

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