In an interview earlier this year our Founder Joe Kenny indicated that internet safety needs to be seen as something as important as learning to safely cross the road. With the increasing use of digital devices and wifi being available more widely in public places, children of all ages have access to a digital world that they are not always equipped to deal with. At Zeeko the central focus of our work is to educate children, their parents and teachers about how to stay safe online. So what can you do to empower your child to stay safe when they are online?

Communication really is the key, starting a conversation about online safety at the earliest possible is a great start. Also, making sure that your communication style is open, particularly with older children is very important. If your child knows that they can come to you to discuss frankly what they are experiencing online they will certainly feel empowered. Working together to find solutions to challenging situations they may encounter online will also help your child to feel empowered. For younger children, remind them of the importance of the Stop, Block, Tell Rule, that if they are online and experience something that upsets them they should immediately stop what they are doing, block the person who has upset them and tell you or another trusted adult who is known to them what has happened. Remember to congratulate your child for following the Stop, Block, and Tell Rule when they do so. This may seem obvious but in the midst of an upsetting incident it can be easy to forget words of encouragement and support!

A group mentality can sometimes develop where communicating online is concerned; remind your child of the importance of looking out for their friends and exercising the same level of caution when they are online as they do when they are offline. For example, your child will know not to give personal details like their address to a stranger, so they should never do something like this when they are online either. For older children remind them of the long term implications of what they share and post online, in other words their digital footprint. Many social media apps thrive on creating the illusion that everything is instant, for example that images and/or messages immediately disappear into cyber space a few seconds after they are sent. This is not always the case; in fact it is quite difficult to permanently remove or delete content shared online. Images can easily be screenshot and re shared. Encourage your child to exercise caution when sharing content even with people they know.

While the temptation to be online is huge, particularly the older children get,  do encourage balance. There is no substitute for meeting friends face to face as opposed to messaging them! The same can be said for taking part in family and community activities that do not involve technology.

Children undoubtedly feel empowered when they are part of the decisions about things that affect them. If you have an open communication  style when it comes to staying safe online that is a great first step in helping your child, regardless of their age, to protect themselves online.