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Staying safe How to keep your kids safe online and beat cyberbullies

Five of the most important tips to help parents and children deal with cyberbullying

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Set rules and limits on what your child can do online and when they can use technology

Set rules and limits on what your child can do online and when they can use technology

Set rules and limits on what your child can do online and when they can use technology

Ask any teenager how they are navigating lockdown and you will be directed to the phone that's perennially attached to their hand. Social distancing and a further lockdown means that the only contact many children have with their friends is the virtual kind. That means they're spending the majority of their waking and sleeping hours on Zoom, Snapchat, TikTok and FaceTime.

Maintaining connections with their friends cannot be understated, but neither can the risks that are associated with being online.

With recent reports indicating a sharp rise in cyberbullying, parents now more than ever, are asking how they can strike the right balance between online and offline activities, and help their kids have a positive relationship with technology, and the internet? Webwise.ie has the answers.

⬤ Have the chat

One of the most effective ways to ensure that your child or teenager has a positive experience online is to have an open, and ongoing conversation with them. Talk to them about what they do online, and reassure them that if anything happens that they are uncomfortable with, they should not feel embarrassed or afraid to speak to you about it.

If your child feels like they can talk to you about their online activities without judgement, or fear of the consequences, it will lead to more honesty, and they will be better equipped to deal with any negative experiences.

For parents of young children, it is never too early to think about their online safety. Even if you are only beginning to discover the internet together, have a conversation with them about the important things to look out for - such as who they talk to online, and about sharing personal information.

For parents of young children it's important that there is very close supervision of their online activity, and that they are only online when you are with them.

⬤ Set Up Parental Controls

Parental controls help to reduce the risk that your child will encounter inappropriate content online, and they can be set up on most internet enabled devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets and games consoles. They can also be set up through your internet service provider, and in online services such as Netflix and YouTube. Parental controls can be used in a number of ways, for example to only allow your child to access age-appropriate content, or to monitor and block their usage. We recommend that parents use, and regularly review and update, parental controls across all devices in the home.

⬤ Time Online: Strike a Healthy Balance

Unfortunately, there is no magic number for screen time, and it is worth bearing in mind that children use their devices for lots of different reasons - to learn, create, play, and interact with their friends.

Under the current circumstances households are using technology for a variety of purposes, every family is different and may face different demands, however setting clear boundaries and rules can be an effective way of managing screen time, and also making sure that you set a good example, and follow those rules too.

⬤ Respectful Communication

Discuss the importance of being respectful to others online, and the impact that their behaviour may have on people.

Encourage them to consider the other person's perspective, and how hurtful remarks or actions could make someone feel. By fostering empathy, and helping them to understand their own boundaries and level of comfort, it will encourage them to become more responsible and considerate users of the internet.

⬤ Talk About the Use of Privacy Settings

Children and teenagers are documenting and sharing lots of information about their lives online, and may not be fully aware of the potential risks or the impact it may have on their online reputation. Talk to them about checking their privacy settings regularly. Many social network accounts are 'public' by default, meaning that anyone can potentially see your child's posts or pictures.

However, it is a good idea to remind them that even with the tightest privacy controls, content that is posted online can very easily be copied and shared to a wider audience that they cannot control.

Encourage your child to be familiar with the blocking and reporting features on platforms they use. Most websites and social networks provide tools for users to report inappropriate and offensive content.

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