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Staying Safe Online At School

Published on 27/07/16

We now live in a connected society where information on any conceivable topic is available at the speed of light. For kids raised in this environment broadband internet access is a standard part of everyday life, but parents may not be as comfortable with the online world. It can be difficult to keep up with children who’ve been immersed in technology since they were born and almost seem to speak another language. And this can cause a great deal of worry. How do you ensure your family is safe online, without stifling their creativity or freedom? We spoke to Matt Powell from Broadband Genie to discuss how to combat some of the threats.

Your Home IT Policy

Businesses have IT policies for the protection of both the organisation and their employees, and parents can apply the same approach to internet access in the home for everyone’s safety.

Ensure that all your devices are protected by anti-virus software and other security tools, and keep everything bang up to date with the latest patches. Malicious software can steal information and spy on your activities, which could be hugely damaging and embarrassing for all involved.

Also set out some clear ground rules for how you expect your children to behave on the internet. As well as avoiding the type of content that’s unsuitable for minors, they should steer clear of dodgy downloads. Not only is this a good way to get viruses, but some types of downloads can have severe legal consequences. Your ground rules should also cover social media, forums, instant messaging and any other online communications, too. Not only is it important to keep personal details private (see below) for their safety, but kids should also be discouraged from getting involved in cyberbullying or any other behaviour which could hurt others.

To help manage your children’s online activities there are numerous parental control applications which can be used to monitor and restrict access, many of which also support smartphones and tablets.

You may also wish to limit computers and mobile devices to the shared areas of your home, at least until the kids are older, so there’s less temptation to get up to anything that violates your home internet policy.

Cyberbullying and Online Privacy

Online bullying is a huge problem for young people. The NSPCC reports that Childline had over 7,000 counselling sessions with children about cyberbullying last year, and many more incidents will go unreported.

Keeping an eye on your children’s online activities can help you spot problems before they become serious. This doesn’t mean you need to be analysing every text or instant message, but do friend or follow them on social media so you can keep a watch for any abusive communications. Also make sure they know to come to you or any other trusted adult for help if they do run into problems.

It’s also vital that kids understand why online privacy is so important. Personal details can encourage harassment, and embarrassing comments or pictures can follow them around for a long time.

They should never share personal details with anyone online, even if they think they know them in real life, and refrain from posting photos. Older children should also be warned about sharing very personal photos as ‘sexting’ when under 18 is a serious offence and can lead to arrest and a criminal record.

Communication Is Key

Parents will need to accept that controlling and monitoring their children’s access to the internet at all times is practically impossible. While you may be able to keep a tight handle on the broadband at home (though even this can be tricky) it’s a different story once they’re old enough to leave the house unsupervised. Between public Wi-Fi hotspots, library and school computers, internet cafes and friends, your kids will be able to get online without someone checking over their shoulders. 

The strongest tool in your arsenal is communication. As well as explaining to your children about the dangers and laying down some reasonable ground rules for their safety, it is crucial that they feel comfortable coming to you to discuss concerns without fear of judgement or punishment.

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