The digital world has changed the way we live and can sometimes be a bit murky for parents. Emma Sadleir’s The Digital Law Company offers 5 tips for keeping your children safe from cyber dangers in this new environment.
The most important thing for parents is education, says Sarah Hoffman, social-media law expert at The Digital Law Company. She recommends that parents become informed about various apps their children are using to be aware of the risks. It may be beneficial to create your own accounts and figure out the nitty-gritty. Some popular apps include:
MAKE SURE YOUR KIDS ARE EDUCATED
Talk to your children about the risks involved when using social media. Many children don’t realise how easily available their information is online and as a result are oblivious to the consequences.
It’s important to discuss the difficult topics with your children. Include the following points:
- Teach them to be wary when talking to strangers online – they shouldn’t always assume people are who they say they are.
- Talk about being selective – don’t allow just anyone to follow you on social media.
- Discuss cyberbullying.
- Talk about sexting, which is viewed as child pornography if intimate images depict children younger than 18.
- Discuss social-media addiction.
SET UP PRIVACY CONTROL ON THE DEVICE
Help your child set up their device with the maximum privacy settings and make a point of checking these settings regularly on each social-media network. Because these apps are constantly updating their settings and security, you want to make sure that your child’s profile is as secure as it can possibly be.
ESTABLISH A SMARTPHONE OR DIGITAL-DEVICE CONTRACT
‘Our opinion, and one that we hold quite strongly, is that there is no need for children under the age of 13 to even own a smartphone,’ says Sarah. ‘And there is no need for them to be on social media.’ For those who do have digital devices, Sarah recommends drawing up a smartphone or digital-device contract that outlines the conditions of use. For example, this will dictate:
- The amount of time allowed on a device
- Which apps can be used
- How and what the device can be used for
- A ‘stay-safe’ waiver
- A good-human policy that promises courteous behaviour online
HAVE OPEN CONVERSATIONS ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA AND ONLINE ACTIVITY
Talk about the little things from a very young age to foster an environment of open and honest communication. If conversation is a regular part of your family life, broaching the harder topics may become easier.
Discuss real-life situations with regard to online risks such as sexting and cyberbullying. In South Africa, the age of criminal capacity if 10 years old. ‘Children need to understand the ramifications of creating, asking for or sending intimate content when you are under 18 – it is a criminal offence. This content is considered child pornography in terms of our law. It is not something that should ever be allowed or condoned,’ says Sarah. Just be clear that your children can come to you with questions or help whenever they need it.
The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE.