Whether a new phone, tablet or gaming console, every device connected to the internet comes with associated risks. And just as you wouldn’t let your children drive a car without a license, there are digital safety measures to be mindful of before placing an exciting new device in your child’s hands. On top of holiday preparations and gift wrapping, keeping track of safety risks to consider can be a challenging task. Follow the checklist below to ensure that your gift is equally exciting and safe for your child.
Set up the device before wrapping
Before the wrapping paper comes out, take the time to set up the new device. This allows you to explore and understand all the safety features available. Familiarise yourself with safety settings and install age-appropriate safety measures for your children. Don’t know which safety features are available? The eSafety Commissioner in Australia (who also coordinates the Safer Internet Day celebrations in the country) has developed a useful gift guide that breaks down what to keep in mind for each device, from smartphone to drone.
Talk about your expectations
Open a dialogue with your child about your expectations for their technology use. Consider asking them to use their devices in common living spaces, ensuring you can monitor their activities, at least periodically. Research shows that even passively overseeing your child’s technology use can significantly minimise the chances of online harm. Also, take the time to discuss potential restrictions on certain features, sites or apps. Instead of just telling your child what they can’t use, give a sound reasoning for your restrictions and explain why some aspects of their device are not yet age-appropriate.
Educate and raise awareness
Children are often unaware of potential dangers lingering online, especially so if you are gifting them their first technological device. By raising awareness, you empower your children to navigate the digital world responsibly. Take the time to address different important online safety topics like those covered by INHOPE’s work:
- What is child sexual abuse material (CSAM)?
- What is sextortion?
- What is self-generated CSAM?
- What is NCII (non-consensual intimate image abuse)?
- The stages of grooming
- The impact of online grooming
If you want to find out how well you are equipped to talk about digital safety with your kids, take the INHOPE quiz, How safe is your child online? (created as part of INHOPE’s Stop scrolling campaign).
For support and information on a wide range of online safety topics, check out your national Safer Internet Centre and the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) gallery of resources.
Establish open lines of communication
This step is not done in one day but requires a commitment to continuous communication with your children, based on mutual respect and understanding. Prioritising digital safety is an ongoing process requiring trust and open lines of communication. This ensures that your children will continue to engage with you about any issues they might encounter online.
As we are preparing gifts for our loved ones this season, let’s ensure that all of us are equipped with the knowledge and tools needed for a safe and enjoyable digital experience. By taking proactive steps to understand and address potential risks, we can ensure that the joy of technology is accompanied by a sense of security.
Find out more about the work of INHOPE at inhope.org.