Cyber Safety: How Can I Keep My Daughter Safe Online?
As parents, foremost in our lives is to provide an environment where our children can learn, be happy and be safe. Seems simple in theory, however, in today’s world, with a generation of ‘tech savvy’, social media wise youth, many parents are not comfortable in dealing with the complexities of life online, and more importantly, trying to keep their children safe. In a world where there are new social media platforms springing up seemingly every day, staying up-to-date with social media trends can at times seem like a never ending, unsurmountable wall. Inevitably, the vast majority of teenagers are using many of the different platforms, which all seem to have different nuances and idiosyncrasies that make it extremely challenging to navigate.
It is important to understand that like most teenagers, your daughters will probably want to be ‘cool’ and popular, especially in social media where the number of ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ are ‘bankable’ amongst peers. This can sometimes motivate accepting contacts or ‘friends’ that they do not know, which can allow strangers to see your child’s personal information and images. While sometimes completely harmless, there is a risk of someone wanting to establish a relationship that could be detrimental to your child. Therefore, as parents we must work to empower our children with the knowledge and skills they require to remain safe. This can include helping them to use the tools in their accounts to block, delete or report anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable. Keeping the lines of communication open with your daughter is therefore crucial, to enable them to feel confident that they can turn to you for advice or support, without fear they will be judged or criticised.
There are many websites that provide a wide range of resources that can advise parents and their children in maintaining safety online, including ‘ReachOut Parents’, who provide some excellent tips to stay informed about social media trends. Some practical advice from ReachOut Parents include the following:
- Overview: For an overview of all social platforms, check the e-safety government website which lists what each platform does and how they are used.
- Google: Another source of information about the popular and new social platforms is simply to Google ‘popular social media platforms Australia’.
- Talk to your daughter and ask her which apps or programs she uses, and why. Questions to ask could include:
- Who uses the app? Who do you talk to on there?
- What kind of information or articles do they share?
- Ask them to be the ‘expert’ and show you how it is used.
- Ask if they are protecting their identity and being safe.
- Talk to your daughter’s Head of Year, members of the school ICT Faculty or your daughter’s Health and Personal Development teacher about what the students are using.
- Do not over-emphasise social media and the digital world as ‘bad’. You want to empower your daughters with the knowledge and skills to be responsible online and with social media. If you are too negative about social media, it might close down lines of communication with your daughter.
- Date of birth risks: Keep the day and date of your birthday on online profiles but avoid putting your full date of birth. Change something e.g. the year or the month. Ensure that your daughters are aware of this safety measure.
- Passwords: You need to change your password every six to eight weeks to ensure safety online. Your daughters must follow this procedure also.
- Protecting their identity and being safe
- FACT: 21% of 10 – 14 year olds share personal information online(https://www.esafetygov.au/education-resources). Parents need to educate their children by exploring how their personal information can be used now and in the future. Take the opportunity to review your own habits if you have social media accounts – do you post photos of your child that show details of their school, sporting club, friends?
Regularly updating of passwords is essential to online safety for the entire family. According to ‘Reach Out’ Australia, there are several dos and don’ts:
- Change your password every six to eight weeks.
- Include fancy symbols (%@&*).
- Include numbers and upper case letters.
- To ensure your password has been updated, log out and then log back in to all of your accounts, on ALL devices.
- Use the same password for everything.
- Use pet names, family birthdays, children’s names as they are too easy to guess (especially if you have all these names listed on your profile).
- Use something that is so completely abstract that you will never remember it.
- Write your passwords down in the one place unless this place is secure.
Staying on Top of Privacy Settings
- This is not an easy task, as with each new platform, there normally comes a new set of guidelines for you and your daughters to become familiar with.
- A great place to find user-friendly information on privacy settings is the e-safety commissioner website, which regularly updates information on new platforms and their privacy settings.
- Talk regularly with your daughter about privacy settings on social media, focussing on keeping the lines of communication open with them in case problems arise.
- By updating your own privacy settings, you will understand more about the potential safety issues and you will also be a great example for your child.
Thankfully, the many relevant and timely articles and excellent resources available on numerous websites can provide understandable, sensible guidance to help both your daughters, and you as parents, navigate your way to enabling safety for you and your families online.