Tuesday the 6th of February 2018 was Safer Internet Day. An international day with the theme to ‘create, connect and share respect’ online. Countless schools engaged in specific lessons around the awareness of emerging issues on the internet and how to be a respectful and responsible digital citizen. Safer Internet Day is truly a fantastic initiative and has certainly generated plenty of discussion amongst children and adults, with many news and media outlets reporting about it on the day. As great as Safer Internet Day is, we feel it also provides a conflicting safety message. To think that a single day is all it takes to be safe and respectful online is missing the point.
How can we keep the momentum of Safer Internet Day going?
Whilst days like ‘Safer Internet Day’ act as a timely reminder to all who live, work and play online, this week offers an opportunity for parents (and those who work with young people) a timely reminder to plan a longer term, proactive approach to tackling this complex problem. We highly encourage you to use the momentum of Safer Internet Day to have an informed and productive discussion with your children or the young the people in your care about this topic.
The Cyber Safety Project has developed the following conversation tips cue card outlining 5 questions to ask your child/tween/young adult/mum/dad/granny (as we all should be across internet safety) about their habits and behaviours when engaging on digital platforms.
- How many followers do you have?
- Other than Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube what are the three apps you would use the most?
- What time do you think everyone in the house should put their devices away?
- How do you know something is ok to share/post?
- What does it feel like when someone posts something about you online?
Despite suggesting that you should have this discussion during the week of Safer Internet Day, the questions above should be revisited regularly.
Questions Rational – Here is the thinking behind each of these questions:
Question 1: “How many followers do you have?”
This can be quite an open ended question that will offer multiple responses. More often than not multiple platforms are being accessed on a daily basis (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Music.ly, Kik) therefore you should seek multiple answers. If the number seems quite high, for example if a 13 year old says they have 346 followers, some follow up questions could include:
- Do you actually know every person or account who follows you?
- Have you met them in real life before?
- Would you stop to talk to them on the street?
These questions provoke reflection and will open the door for talking about trusting all who are following you. There are a myriad of safety concerns around young people being profiled online through fake accounts and manipulative behaviours which can all occur on these perceived ‘private’ social media platforms. The higher the number of followers, the more at risk your child is of being groomed or profiled by unknown/unidentifiable accounts.
Question 2: “Other than Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube what are the three apps you would use the most?”
These social media platforms are the obvious ‘BIG 4’. Knowing that their parents and carers use these platforms themselves, young people are seeking alternative social networking avenues. This question provides insight into other social networking sites or games that your child might be using. We can’t stress the important of exploring these apps and games for yourself to expose their functionality. Within any App Store Social Networking category, it is generally the second tier apps and games that are being used by younger users. New platforms are constantly being released and reviewed as their popularity rises and falls, each with different ways children can connect and communicate with unknown users.
Question 3: “What time do you think everyone in the house should put their devices away?”
So much of the ongoing research around student behaviour and learning is around the individuals ability to self-regulate. The ability to monitor their own behaviour to positively influence their own well-being. These questions prompt the child/tween/mum/dad/granny to reflect on why the ability to remove oneself from the device and engage with their peers, family and friends is so important. These habits and ‘at home’ expectations plays a huge part in the overall digital wellbeing of the users and influences the daily usage, device reliance, sleep patterns and wellbeing. Have you and your family got a ‘Device and Internet Use Agreement’? It might sound formal but designing this together offers an opportunity to lay down some ground rules and hold each accountable (mum/dad/granny) included. Tip: Parents play the biggest role in setting standards. Modelling and adhering to your families ‘Device and Internet Use Agreement’ is paramount.
Question 4: “How do you know something is ok to share/post?”
Permission is KING! Too many people, regardless of age, find themselves in hot water because of their own naivety in assuming that something is ‘ok’ for you to post. Our own digital reputation can be depicted through not only through what we post, but by what other people post of us. So make it reciprocal! Always ask permission before you post a photo of others and expect it in return.
Question 5: “What does it feel like when someone posts something about you online?”
You maybe surprises around why this question is so important! 36% of EVERYTHING that is posted online is categorised as negative, hurtful or inappropriate. Whether it’s the ‘keyboard warriors’ making comment towards a sports star they don’t like, a negative emoji or a vicious comment towards someone you know, these “negative posts”, happen too often. Talking to your child regularly about practical strategies, ways to avoid such negativity online and monitoring will mean their continued online experience is as positive as possible and always at the front of mind.
Knowledge is power, so having regular conversations with your child around their digital habits can give you the best chance at early intervention and support the young people in your care with the best strategies to have a positive digital experience.
We hope you enjoyed these conversation tips, please let us know how your conversations went in the comments or on Facebook!
Cyber Safety Project.