CyberSafeIreland is a non-profit organisation working towards a world in which children are using technology in a safe, positive and successful manner.
Start the conversation
The important thing is that it becomes a normal part of life to be talking with your children about what they are doing online, i.e. what is fun, what can go wrong and how they would cope with it.
Just as in real life, talk to them about what is okay and not okay to do online. Encourage them to look after their friends. Get them to show you how to do something. Kids love being smarter than grown-ups. We have some ideas below for conversation starters. Start the conversation now. Don’t wait until there is a problem.
Six ideas for conversation starters
1. Talk about what they like doing.
Talk about what they like doing online, e.g. what apps they use, what games they play or which YouTubers they follow.
2. Ask what they see that they worry about online.
Ask what they see that they worry about online and what they would do if something made them feel upset or worried.
3. Ask them for their top tips for staying safe online.
Ask your child to give you their top tips for how to stay safe online. This can help gauge their knowledge but also open the door to discussing these ideas further.
4. Go through the privacy settings for their apps
For every social media / messaging app or game that they use, get them to show you the privacy settings (e.g. the options that set out who can see their photos or follow their games) and how they would report or block someone or something that makes them uncomfortable or upset.
5. Talk about what information is OK to share
Talk about what information they think is okay to share and what is not okay to share (e.g. full name, email, address, passwords). Discuss what they might consider before sharing photos, and what kind of photos they like to share most.
6. Ask them for help
Ask your child to help you do something online, e.g. change the privacy settings on your social media account, search for information on something or download an app.
Do your research
What should you do if your child comes to you asking to set up a social media or messaging account or to play a specific game online? Often peer pressure is a motive but on the other hand, saying no may be counterproductive if they go behind your back and then won’t come to you if there is a problem. Whatever your decision, be informed. Research the app or game.
Get stuck in
If you do decide to allow your child to use a particular app or game, then make sure that you get involved. You could agree that you download and set it up together, making the most of any privacy settings etc.
Agree basic ground rules, e.g. not accepting friend requests from strangers and always keep an eye on what they are doing and saying online. Make it clear they can always come to you if anything makes them upset or worried.
Download and print out a copy of CyberSafeIreland’s Family Agreement to help you agree and remind the family of the rules for using the Internet.
Parental controls are technical settings that you can use to restrict or control content or activities for your child on a particular app, device or network. These are especially important and useful to apply for younger children, but older children will often find ways around them.
CyberSafeIreland is a not-for-profit organisation, established in 2015, that works to empower children, parents and teachers to navigate the online world in a safe and responsible manner.
Their founders have backgrounds in cybercrime investigation, law enforcement, forensic psychology, online child protection, academia and the not-for-profit sector.
Technology is going to play an increasingly important part of children’s futures. It will be used more widely in schools and even a fairly basic mobile phone these days will allow a child the ability to take risks almost unthinkable 20 years ago.
CyberSafeIreland parents talks are about 1 hour long and can be scheduled for the morning (after school drop-off) or in the evening in order to suit as many parents as possible. They can also provide talks for teachers and other groups to keep them up to date on what children are doing online and how they can help to keep their online experiences safe and successful.
See CyberSafeIreland.ie to book a school talk or find out more.