It is officially the end of summer, as primary and second level pupils return to school. This can be a good time of the year to revisit a conversation about staying safe online with your child, individually and as a family. The start of school marks a return to routines and a level of structure that wasn’t needed over the summer months. This can also extend to internet use and time spent online. So what things should you bear in mind when having a conversation with your child about staying safe online as the new term starts?

It is a good idea to consider what is important to you as parent in relation to in advance of having your conversation. For example, why is managing screentime a priority for your family? Do you want to reinforce that any rules you have in place at home should also extend to interactions online when your child is not under your supervision? This can be particularly pertinent when dealing with teenagers and the use of things like messaging apps. Once you have had a chance to reflect on what is a priority for you take some time with your child to open the discussion. A good way to start may be to talk about the things that worked well in the previous school year in relation to staying safe online. Also, take the opportunity to talk about the fact that now that the summer is over, there will be different priorities. For example, if your child has spent an increased amount of time online over the summer holidays explain now that school is back, that time will be reduced. This can be challenging, but if all of the family are involved and everyone is adjusting their time online this will be helpful.

Reminding and reinforcing the importance of the basic rules of staying safe online such as the Stop Block Tell Rule if they encounter something when they are online that upsets or disturbs them. Also, remind them of the importance of behaving in the same way they do when they are online as they do when they are offline. This is linked to digital footprint, children can often get so caught up in the excitement of sharing content with their friends through messaging via text, photo and video that they don’t think about the longer term implications of what they are sharing. Remind your child, regardless of their age that content they share cannot be easily removed or permanently deleted. A good place to start in relation to managing screentime is to use the Screentime Rule we have pioneered at Zeeko. It’s called the 5:1 Rule, for every 1 hour spent online this should be balanced with 5 hours of real world activities. These activities can include things like playing sports, spending time with your family or doing homework.

The adjustment to the new school year can present lots of challenges. Taking the time to talk to your child about how they can stay safe online will be time well spent!