A survey for parents about digital citizenship – the online world we and our children inhabit

The Council of Europe invites parents, grandparents, carers and all those guiding children in their online activities, to fill out their digital citizenship education survey. Thanks to your contribution, the Council of Europe will get a better understanding of the type of support and information you would most appreciate, in order for them to provide better tools for families in the future.

Children are not born as digital citizens, and busy parents are not always able to supervise and guide them. Especially now that, due to the current crisis, children are spending more time than ever online, and new social media apps and platforms spring up every day.

Please complete the survey here:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VMBG8LJ?lang=en  

The Council of Europe has an extensive work programme in digital citizenship, with 47 member states from Iceland to Russia and beyond. More info on the programme can be found here: https://www.coe.int/en/web/digital-citizenship-education

Parents, know your children’s online chat!

This is one for the parents. We know that with children and teenagers at home there is probably more time being spent on line. It is important that parents know what some of the acronyms used on line mean. Here is a poster put together by Letterkenny Youth and Family Services.

Remember if you need advice or support you can contact LYFS on-

Tel/Text/Whatsapp- 0861237917
Email- lyfs@live.ie
Faceboock- Lyfscommunityproject

 

Has technology invaded your family life?

Advice that many professionals and parents request from Parents Plus in this Irish Times article with Professor John Sharry

In the past 20 years the use of technology has invaded family life. Whereas previously there was only the TV to contend with, now we have the internet, video games and smart phones all interrupting family life. When I first started clinical work with families, the number one battle for parents was to get their children to come home on time, now parents battle to get their children out of the house into the fresh air (and to leave the screens behind).

While technology has given us incredible ways to communicate with others, it has also interrupted our communication with our nearest and dearest. If you were to visit an average family home these days you might find Mum on social media, Dad checking emails, the daughter reviewing YouTube videos and the son watching live-streamed videos – no one is talking to each another and all the attention is on the virtual world.

A growing reason for couples seeking marriage counselling are related to screens, whether this is an addiction to pornography or social media, online affairs or simply couples spending more time online and less time communicating with each other.

As well as the dangers of cyber-bullying and the addictive nature of the internet, the excessive use of screens are associated with poor health and sleeping habits.

In my clinical practice, I have come across many teenagers who use the internet throughout the night (often not known by their parents). I remember one girl who would wake several times a night to check if there were any further “likes” to one of her posts on social media. This constant checking of social media or being online all the time is driven by a normal teenage desire to fit in but, amplified on social media, it leads to increased anxiety, poorer concentration and interrupted sleep.

In addition, teenagers, especially boys, are accessing pornography at younger and younger ages (some from the age of 10) and there is evidence that this is distorting their normal sexual development with a growing number becoming addicted in early adulthood, wreaking havoc with their ability to form healthy relationships.

Given the highly immersive and engaging nature of the internet and social media, it is hard for real world healthy activities such as sport, home projects or even walking in nature to get a look in. Even doing homework is made more complicated now that a lot of it is completed online, when alluring, distracting online material is just two finger clicks away.

Remember that Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter have no interest in your children’s improved concentration or long-term health; they simply want to lure them back to log in as frequently as possible.

So, how can you respond as a parent to all these challenges?

How can you be proactive and take steps to help your children and teenagers be safe online and to use technology responsibly? Below are some ideas.

Join in and understand your children’s technology

The first step is not to see technology as “all bad”. Take time to get to know your children’s technology and encourage the positive educational and entertainment aspects. Indeed, technology can be a source of connection between you and your children. Joining them to play some of their video games or using shared social media email and texting can be an important way to stay connected with them as they get older.

Adopt a gradual approach

When your children start using technology it is best to adopt a gradual step-by-step approach based on trust and your child’s age. Start conservatively, and slowly give them access.

When children are young, all internet use should be supervised directly by parents and the child should not know passwords.

As they get older, children can be allowed some time unsupervised, but parents should check their history, know passwords and install appropriate safety software, and so on.

Children should gain access to new technology (like a social media account) only once they have discussed safety and learned about the platform together with their parents.

Create technology-free times and zones

Make sure to limit technology in the home and to set aside times and places when only real world activities and conversations are allowed. For example, you might set family rules such as:

– No phones in bedrooms after 7pm (to ensure a good night’s sleep).
– No technology at mealtimes (to allow time for family talking).
– One hour screen time during weekdays (to allow time for homework and sport).
– Agree that notifications are turned off on phones and social media is checked only a few times a day.
– Have a social media free day such as Sunday when you have family events.

Teach safety

Talk through safety with a child before you introduce a new technology. Go through any potential issues together and ask questions, such as:

How can you ensure you are safe online? What would you do if someone spoke negatively about you online? How can you make sure your phone use is not addictive?

As children become older teenagers they will be responsible for their own technology use, but it is important that you continue to talk to them about safety and responsible usage. Discuss the current dangers and challenges (which are constantly changing) and how they can can manage these.

Negotiate with your children

Listen to your child’s wishes about technology and give them choices. For example, the rule might be that they have a set amount of screen time (for example, 30 minutes) each day of the week, but they can choose when this happens. Children may be allowed more time once they show they are responsible, complete their homework and chores. It is perfectly appropriate to communicate to children that technology is a privilege rather than an entitlement dependent on good behaviour and co-operation (and which can be removed if children don’t keep rules).

Take time to change habits

Many parents are in a situation where poor technology habits have become the norm in the home (TV on all the time, eating in front of screens, phones in the bedroom) and they want to change this. In these situations, take time to negotiate these changes with your children and then gradually work towards them. For example, you might start a conversation saying: “I am worried that there is too much phone and tablet use in the house. It is interfering with homework and time with the family. We need to agree a better routine around this. What do you think?”

Fifty Key Messages – Safety First teenagers and social media

Communication is the key:

Keep the channels of communication open with your teenager at all times. Ultimately you want them to be able to come to you with any issues or concerns that they might have, whether it be in relation to friendships, social media, sexual health or other areas.

Talk to your older children about using social media. The following are some things that you could discuss together:

Help guide them through a do and don’t list

  • Only accept ‘friend requests’ from people they know,
  • Block or ‘unfriend’ people who are not being friendly and respectful,
  • Be careful about the posting comments and uploading photos,
  • Report abuse,
  • Be cautious about identity, because not everyone online is who they say they are,
  • Keep privacy settings up to date on social networking sites,
  • Keep passwords and log-in details private and secret from friends,
  • Remember to log out after using public computers, such as at a library or cafe.

www.internetsafety.ie 

To explore more of the Key Messages from Tusla’s Parenting24Seven see https://www.tusla.ie/parenting-24-seven/12-years/

Fifty Key Messages – Tips for your child on the internet

(From Tusla’s parenting24seven website)

You can help your child get the benefits of using the internet while avoiding some of the risks. Here are some guidelines for keeping your child safe on the internet:

Be informed and ‘net-savvy’

The best safeguard against online dangers is being informed and familiar with the internet. Often children know more about new technology than adults so it’s important you know your way around the internet and then you can help children protect themselves from various internet dangers.

Supervision

Keep the computer in a busy part of the house, where the screen can always be seen. Let the children know that their activities on the computer will be supervised.

Helping Children Use Computers

Use the Internet with your child. Let them lead but stay with them until you are sure they using it appropriately. You can also check your Internet browser history to make sure they have been accessing suitable sites.

Keep an open dialogue

Keep the communication lines open and cultivate an interest in children’s online activities—their favourite Web sites, online games and interests, and discuss what they are doing. Talk to your children about the benefits and dangers of the Internet and don’t be afraid to ask who they are talking to online and what they are talking about. Tell your child always to let you know if an online ‘friend’ they don’t know in real life wants to meet them.

Agree on a game plan / rules of use

Discuss computer guidelines and rules for using the internet with the children. Post a print out of these rules near the computer as a reminder.

Possible issues to include in these guidelines are:
  • Duration of use – time allowed on the computer
  • Sites allowed to access
  • Always tell an adult if they have received scary, inappropriate or threatening messages.
  • Never share personal information on the Internet such as your name, address, telephone number, school name etc without your parents/carer’s permission. Never send pictures of your family, friends or yourself to anyone online without permission either.
  • Be aware of the potential dangers online – adults pretending to be children; business companies wanting mobile information to take money off your phone; dangerous people; spam emails that can spread a virus in your computer and access personal and banking information.
  • Do not open emails from people you don’t know.
  • Never agree to meet people that you have met online and inform parents/ guardians if people ask to meet you in person.

InternetSafety is one website that has an example of a Family Game Plan that you can use.

Protect your computer

Take advantage of the software that exists to help parents manage their children’s computer experience. In only a few minutes, parental control software such as Magic Desktop or Safe Eyes can block inappropriate websites, restrict the amount of time that your kids use the Internet, and monitor their Instant Messenger chats to protect against predators.

Mobile phones

Mobile phones can also access the Internet these days and the above rules/gameplan need to be applied if your child has access to the internet through their phone. If your child is sent inappropriate material, pictures or texts on their phone they need to let a parent/ supervising adult know. Again it is vital that the lines of communication are kept open so that you know what messages your child is sending and receiving.

FURTHER INFO

For more Key Messages check out https://www.tusla.ie/parenting-24-seven/6-12-years/

Keeping Kids Safe Online This Summer!

School is officially out for summer! Here’s hoping that long sunny days lie ahead. No matter what you can be sure that technology will play a part in everyone’s summer. So, here are some tips for what you can do to ensure that your child stays safe over the summer holidays, while they are spending some time online.

Here at Zeeko we regularly say that communication is key! There genuinely is no substitute for face to face open communication with your child when it comes to many elements of parenting but none more so than internet safety. It is a good idea to have a conversation as early as possible in the summer holidays with your child about you and your child’s expectations about the use of technology. Children can assume that now that they are finished school, that they can spend their increased free time online. This expectation will not always be matched by their parent! Negotiation will be central to what is agreed between you and your child about how the use of technology will be managed over the summer months. The following areas may be of help to you in supporting your child to stay safe online and achieving that all elusive balance.

Screentime: Remind your child of the importance of having a balance when it comes to the amount of time that they are spending online. At Zeeko we have pioneered the 5:1 Rule when it comes to screentime. This essentially means that for every hour that is spent on screens this should be balanced with 5 hours of ‘real world’ activities, preferably activities that involve some physical exercise. Also, it’s important that your child, switches off any screen at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light omitted by screens can affect the levels of melatonin in the brain which can affect things like concentration the following day. The temptation is always there, particularly during the holidays, to spend an increased amount of time on screens.

The Stop Block Tell Rule: It can be genuinely distressing for young children in particular, to encounter something age inappropriate or witness others being treated badly when they are online. Talk to your child about the importance of using the Stop, Block, Tell Rule if they do encounter something that upsets them. Stop what they are doing, block the person and/or conversation that has upset them, and finally tell a trusted adult what they have experienced. Talking about what has upset them will definitely make it less frightening. Let your child know that it is ok for them to talk about what they are experiencing when they are online. Having regular open conversations as a family about the internet is a great foundation for your child to learn that the digital world can be a great experience, but that they need to remember to stay safe.

Online Etiquette: Often the excitement of messaging, gaming, video and photo sharing can lead to children of a range of ages, not being as cautious as they would usually be when they are offline. Talk with your child about the importance of treating people the same when they are online as they would when they are not. Also remind them of the T-Shirt Rule, which is a great way of reinforcing the fact that what is shared online cannot be easily deleted or removed – don’t post anything that you wouldn’t be happy to wear on the front of a t-shirt! This certainly makes children and adults think twice about what they post online.

As we know from our work with primary and secondary schools throughout the year, the internet is a fantastic resource, but children do need support and guidance to learn how to safely navigate the online world, regardless of the time of year! Our team at Zeeko wish you all a fun filled and safe summer both on and offline!

For more information on keeping your child safe online check out Zeeko’s website https://zeeko.ie/

 

Kids and technology – the challenge of balance!

Zeeko is an organisation committed to supporting children’s online wellbeing. Here is a great piece from them about having a balanced approach to online activity.

Barnardo’s UK recently released a Report called ‘Left to their own Devices’ which explored the use of social media by Barnardo’s youngest clients. Their insights indicate some children start looking at social media as early as two-years-old. Half of service practitioners responding said they had worked with children aged five to 10 who had been exposed to unsuitable or harmful materials online, and more than one third said children in that age group had been victims of cyberbullying.

When it comes to 11 to 15 year olds, almost 8 in 10 (79%) practitioners said children they work with have experienced cyberbullying and 58% in the 16+ age group which has led to self-harm and suicide attempts.

Reading these statistics can be overwhelming for parents, in particular when they are trying to guide their kids in the right direction when it comes to the use of social media and indeed technology in general. So, what can you do to help your child to stay safe when it comes to spending time online and also how and when kids use technology?

Here are some tips to help you get a conversation on staying safe where technology is concerned.

It may sound like very simple advice but talk to your child as much as possible about how important it is to stay safe when they are online. It is never too early to start this conversation. The internet is undoubtedly a fantastic resource, but kids do need to be aware that they should be conscious of who they are interacting with and what they are sharing when they are online. If children are used to hearing and participating in regular conversations about the internet at home, then they will certainly be better equipped to stay safe when they are online.

Encourage and promote a balanced approach to the use of technology:

Managing something like the amount of time that your children spend on screens can be a challenge. Encourage them to have a healthy balance in their use of technology and the time they spend online. Remind them, through example, of the importance of face to face interaction with their family and friends. Promote regular family activities that don’t involve a screen! It’s totally natural that if your child received a new smartphone, iPad or Tablet for Christmas they will want to spend as much time as possible enjoying and exploring their new gift. Setting boundaries early on about the amount of time that they can spend using technology is a good first step in promoting balance.

No safety setting is a substitute for education:

As we regularly say at Zeeko while safety settings on digital devices, are a very necessary and important step where keeping your child safe is concerned, they are never 100% secure. The best way your child can stay safe is by having the knowledge through education, to make smart choices when they are online. To be conscious of what they are sharing and with who. When we visit schools throughout the country to talk about staying safe online we reinforce the importance of knowing what to do if something unpleasant happens when they are online. Linking in with an adult they trust, usually a parent to talk about what they have encountered online is crucial. With teens the approach is slightly different. We encourage them to remember the importance of behaving the same way they do when they are online as they do when they are offline. In other words, exercising the same degree of caution that they would in the real world as they do in the virtual online world.

No matter what, it is really important that kids feel empowered to make smart choices about what they are doing when they use technology and spend time online. By having an open communication style and keeping a conversation about online safety as a regular part of daily life you are doing something very positive to help your child be a savvy tech user.

To see some more really good posts from Zeeko which will help you to help your child stay safe online just click the link:- https://zeeko.ie/blog/

Teenagers and Digital Etiquette

Here are some good tips from Zeeko to help your children and teenagers – and indeed all of us – have good habits online.

Kids, in particular teens, can get very wrapped up in what they are doing when they spend time online. Our blog this week offers tips on helping kids to learn about digital etiquette.

Teach the “Grandma Rule”: As communication via social media becomes ingrained in our culture, children need to know social networking etiquette. A good rule is to only share or leave comments that you would feel comfortable with granny seeing or reading. If you hesitate or question how grandma would react, then you probably should not be posting. This concept helps kids define what behaviours are acceptable. Also, remind children that nothing is really private online, everything has the possibility of being shared.

Be in the know: Communication is key, because it is estimated that 70 percent of our teens actually take measures to hide their online activity from adults. These behaviours range anywhere from dimming screens, closing windows, or creating dummy social media accounts. It is important that we stay informed about trends, new social media hangouts, and what sites our kids frequent. Ask a child to friend you online and check their activity frequently.

Let them know it’s okay to “say no” to sexting: Sexting involves much more than sending a racy selfie to someone. Teens who sext can be emotionally hurt, bullied, and targeted by sexual predators. Even with the lurking threats, sexting is now frequently perceived as a safe alternative to sex and a normal part of adolescent development. Children need to know that they can decline a sext request. If a person truly cares about them, they will respect the decision to say no.

Take every opportunity possible to remind teenagers that what they see when they are using social media is only a snippet of people’s lives and may not always be a true reflection of reality.

Having an open communication style with your teenager will be a great help when it comes to conversations about social media. If your child knows that they can talk openly to you about what they are encountering when they are using social media, they will be more likely to regularly share their experiences.

Remind your teenager to exercise the same level of caution when they are using social media as they would when they are offline. If they wouldn’t share personal information with a stranger in the ‘real world’, then why would they share this information when they are online?

For older teens, encourage them to activate the safety settings on any digital devices that they are using, be that a smartphone, iPad or Tablet. Regularly reviewing these settings with your teenager is a good idea.

The important thing about safely navigating social media for all of us is knowing how to make smart choices with what you share and who you share it with!

For more tips on internet safety check out:

https://zeeko.ie/teenagers-and-digital-etiquette-zeeko-tips/

Do you want to help your children stay safe on line?

Internet Safety Guide

Zeeko provides resources for parents, teachers and schools to empower their children with the tools to protect themselves online.

The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide will help parents and teachers navigate the internet and teach their children how to use the internet responsibly. They will find out how to protect their children online and get peace of mind.

Discover how to:

  • Set safety settings
  • Protect your child’s digital footprint
  • Talk your kids language
  • Protect against cyberbullying and stranger danger
  • Defend against excessive internet use
  • Safeguard against inappropriate content

“The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide provides tangible and specific advice on how parents, teachers, and others can protect children online, without unnecessarily impairing children’s development.”

Dr Grainne Kirwan IADT Dublin, specialist in Cyber Psychology

Just click the link https://zeeko.ie/internet_safety_guide/  and then click the dowload button.