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Online safety

Many young people are spending more time online than ever before, and we understand that being connected is important especially right now. But we want to make sure that your children are safe and happy when theyre spending time online. 

As a mum of 10 and 13 years old girls, around-the-clock connectivity is, for the most part, an amazing thing and the internet has many positive attributes – it definitely makes home schooling easier!   

The internet is permanent 

However, one issue I see a lot, which causes major distress to everyone involved, is the sharing of inappropriate images 

In an endless sea of DMs, memes, selfies, cat pics and blog posts, children often forget that that thmaterial you post online can be recorded, quoted, edited, taken out of context and a screenshot taken. Pictures and videos that children send as fun or that were meant to be kept private can be exploited following a friendship fall out, causing far-reaching consequences to their emotional and social wellbeing and even sometimes their future.   

Help your kids understand that the internet is permanent. If they put it online, they must be comfortable with the possibility that it is going to be there permanently. If they feel unsure about it just don’t post/send it.   

You might think ‘’Surely, they know this?’’ If you ask your child, I’m sure theyll tell you that they would never send indecent or naked pictures of themselves. But never underestimate the pulling power of peer pressure. I see this every day and I’m typically told ‘’Everybody is doing it…’’ They can so easily normalise behaviour that isn’t ok, can be illegal and might be dangerous.   

Some children, especially the younger ones (9-13 years old), just don’t have the confidence or emotional maturity to resist peer pressure.   

Age restrictions 

Which brings me to my next concern - Age-RestrictionsDid you know you need to be 13 years old to use TikTok? My daughter is 10 years old and had an account. I just thought it was harmless dancing. Only when I attended an online safety course did I realise it’s so much more.  

Age restrictions are there for a reason… to safeguard your child. If youre unsure about age restrictions for various social media websites and there are many, believe me - please look at this NCPCC page   

Honest conversations 

Do encourage your child to ask for help and be transparent about their online activities. Instead of trying to rule the Internet with an iron fist, invite open and honest conversations about what they are doing online. 

As soon as you allow your child to use the internet, game online, have a phone or mobile device you need to consider that they will grow up to be a teenager one day.  A 13-14 years old who has never had to hand over their phone to be checked is unlikely to hand it over without a massive fight when you want to review an activityTo make it feel normal, start having conversations early, when theyre young. Work together to establish ground rules and involve your child in the decision-making process.   

Report it

Last but not least, if you’re worried that your child is being exploited online - Report It talk to your child, their school, police or your local school nurses. If you’re worried, you can also visit the Child Exploitation Online Protection command for more information and to and make a report.

To read more about online safety, visit Berkshire West’s information pages, where they’ve pulled together lots of resources, information and support. 

Keep safe, keep your children safe and enjoy safe internet.   

About the author

Monika Mann is a Specialist Practitioner Community School Nurse