As the Christmas season is now in full swing it’s a good time to remind your children whether they are young or a little older about the importance of staying safe online over the next few weeks. It is highly likely that Santa is going to deliver smartphones and/or digital devices in all their different forms to homes throughout Ireland, so it is timely to take some time to talk about all of the family staying safe when using technology.

Making sure that safety settings are set up on any new smartphones or other digital devices is a reassurance as a parent. While safety settings are not a 100% guarantee of safety, they are a great start. Every device is different, and it would be important that you read the information about safety settings that come with the device that you have purchased and also make sure that regular updates are downloaded as these will keep your safety settings up to date.

Also, it is a good idea when creating a password that it is not an obvious one, i.e. a date of birth or incorporates a house number for example. Regardless of what password you choose, you should change it regularly in order to protect against hacking and to remain secure.

As always holiday times can mean that there is an increased amount of screentime for all the family! This can be particularly relevant if there is an abundance of new devises in the house. As much as possible encourage and promote balance, when it comes to the amount of time spent on screens. A good way to gauge the right amount of time to spend on screens would be to use the Zeeko 5:1 Rule, for every 1 hour of screentime there should be 5 hours of real-world activity, (time spent away from screens.). You could also see if your child would like any board games as a present as it could be a great way of spending time together as a family over the holidays instead of the new modern way of ‘spending time together whilst on phones’.

Should your child be online and experience something negative, remind them of the importance of the Stop, Block Tell Rule should your child encounter something that makes them feel uncomfortable when they are online. They should Stop what they are doing, Block the person who has or is upsetting them and finally that they should Tell a trusted adult usually their parent what they have experienced.

For older children, remind them of the importance of only sharing information with friends that they know and trust when they are online. It is easy to get caught up in the moment when using a new device and to forget that things that are shared online cannot be easily removed or deleted. A digital footprint can have a long-lasting impact on areas like career progression. Obviously at the moment of sharing something online this is not to the forefront of people’s minds!

Technology has revolutionised our world, it can make a great gift, once your child is confident that they can make smart choices when using technology that is a great way to ensure that they enjoy their new device while also staying safe!