Do you know what your child is looking at and who they are engaging with online?
The internet is amazing and there is so much to love about it. I enjoy emailing friends and family around the word and connecting with them and their adventures through Facebook. In my freetime I watch Netflix and Disney + movies and documentaries. My husband looks at YouTube clips that provide him with ideas and inspiration for projects to do in his high school Design and Technology lessons. My youngest son enjoys gaming with his mates, in particular soccer games whilst my middle son managed through lockdown by purchasing a second hand PS4. My eldest does his university designs online and has classes with students who are living in Asia.
However, there are also things on the internet which are very concerning and indeed disturbing, or when online use takes over. Sadly, I hear about these things from parents and many students who come to speak with me. This past week alone, a student has shared about feeling like their body is not like the ones she sees of girls on the internet and that makes her feel sad and indeed less of a person. Students have shared of being in chat groups with other students in their year level where awful things are said either to them or about other students. Other students tell me they are tired because they were chatting online in the early hours of the morning, or were woken by their friends messaging them, or have been gaming all night.
It may seem all too hard for us as parents and carers to navigate the online world with our kids. And indeed sometimes it is! However, we must persist and persevere in ensuring our kids are engaging in a healthy way with all things online. As parents and carers it is our responsibility to care for them and support them as they grow up.
Talking with other parents and hearing what they are doing in this space can be helpful. We also at BHPS are members of an organization called The Cybersafety Project https://cybersafetyproject.com.au/ which gives parents access to lots of information and tips and online seminars regarding cybersafety. See the flyer below on upcoming and past webinars that are available to parents, especially the one that is coming up about social media. The E Safety Commissioner website has lots of answers to those tricky questions https://www.esafety.gov.au/ , as does the Kids Helpline https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents.
Reading up on these things is good, however we actually have to sit down with our kids and calmly have a conversation. Find out about their online interests. Maybe look at some of the articles above with your child and explore together with them what they say. Have a look at your child’s device and see what they are looking at or who they are talking to. Encourage them to get out of unhealthy online conversations and discourage internet use close to bedtime and overnight (by removing devices from bedrooms).
Maybe start the conversation today with your child around safe and healthy internet use.