With children being more tech-savvy than ever, it's important for the adults around them to help them have a positive experience online.
Parenting children and teenagers is not easy, and technology can bring up extra challenges.
“One in five young Australian has had a negative experience online, and that can run the gamut from cyberbullying to image-based abuse to seeing violence or hatred online,” says eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.
Image-based abuse is the sharing of intimate photos without the consent of the person pictured. Many young people call the Kids Helpline because it happened to them.
Parents might also be worried about their children viewing inappropriate content online and strangers contacting their children.
Cyberbullying is also a very serious issue. “For a lot of parents, when they were growing up, they might have experienced bullying at school, at social functions, that sort of thing. But when they got home, home would be their safe place where they wouldn't have to deal with that anymore. Yet, for young people, because they're always connected, the bullying, it can feel like it never stops,” explains Kids Helpline counsellor Belinda Beaumont.
Start a conversation with your child
The first thing you can do is to have a chat with your children about online safety and let them know that they can come to you if they have a problem.
While it might be tempting to ban all social media and online gaming, Beaumont says it's not the solution:
“What I know as a Kids Helpline counsellor is that kids are going to use it anyway, so if you try to do that, all it's going to teach them is to be more secretive and hide things, and they're going to create their own accounts anyway. So the best thing you can actually do, even though it's hard and it's scary, is to trust your relationship with them and trust them to come to you when they have issues."
If your younger children have older siblings who understand the importance of online safety, involve them in the conversation.
Set parental controls and boundaries
What you can do, especially for younger children, is to set parental controls on devices to help monitor or limit what they're accessing online.
You also want to set boundaries and rules like not allowing your children to use their device in their bedrooms and making sure they don’t post anything showing where they live.
Another way to engage with your child is to play a video game with or download an app they're using. You'll have a better understanding of how it works, and it will be an opportunity to start a discussion.
What to do if there’s an issue
If your child comes to you with a problem, stay calm and listen to them.
“The first thing is to keep the dialogue open. Make sure the children know that they can come to you if something goes wrong online. That's the first thing to do, not punishing the children if they're coming to you and have done something wrong that has led them to a situation that led them to a bit of trouble. Just be calm about that, and let them know that you'll find help," says Jane French, Child Wise executive director.
If your child is a victim of cyberbullying or image-based abuse, you can report it online via the eSafety Commissioner website.
The eSafety Commissioner website is also a great place to find information about online safety and tips to start a discussion with your child, available in several languages.
You can also download the CyberParent app, available in 17 different languages.
If you're a parent looking to start a discussion about online safety with your child, don't miss The Hunting. SBS's new four-part drama series explores how teenagers traverse the complexities of relationships, identity and sexuality via technology, premiering on Thursday 1 August at 8.30pm on SBS and On Demand.