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How do I keep my 8 – 12 year-olds safe online?

Combine computer experience with a solid grasp of language and you get the modern 8 – 12 year-old. How do you keep this inquisitive minds safe when they have the vocabulary and computing confidence to find anything and everything on the internet?

Part 2 of our series on keeping your children safe on the internet (Part 1 was aimed at children from 2 to 8 – read it here) focuses on engaging your children, and working with them to help them understand the dangers of the internet and what is appropriate computer usage for their age.

Discussing computer usage

At between 8 and 12 years old, your child is old enough to have a conversation about responsible computer usage. The specifics of the conversation will depend on the maturity level and internet confidence of your son or daughter, but some general topics should include:

 •        What websites are your child allowed to visit?

Obviously you can’t print an exhaustive list of all the websites your son or daughter can and can’t visit (there probably isn’t enough paper in the world!), but you can lay down some ground rules.

Good suggestions include forbidding access to unsupervised chat rooms; websites with adult content; file-sharing websites and forums inappropriate for their age.

•        How long can they go online for?

Because the internet is such an exciting and interesting place, it’s easy for anyone (not just children) to get lost inside it. Setting limits on how long your children can use the internet (and sticking to them) means that your children will understand that computers are good supplements for the real world, and not replacements for it.

•        What games are allowed?

It’s important to discuss what activities your children can and can’t do, and to what extent. Online gaming, for example, is a huge hit with children of all ages.

However, there can be a number of offensive people who use obscene language while playing. To ensure your child is not exposed to or influenced by this behaviour, you’ll need to know how good the filtering system is for each particular game.

•        Who can they interact with?

It’s a difficult topic to discuss, but children are vulnerable on the internet if they are allowed to interact with unsavory characters. We’re not just talking about predatory adults, but also poorly behaved children could influence your son or daughter to misbehave or get involved in criminal activities online.

It’s vital to set clear boundaries on who they can interact with.

Discussing the dangers of the internet

Even at 8 years old, your child is mature enough to understand some of the dangers of the internet. It’s a great time to discuss malware and viruses, how easily they can infect your computer and what damage they can do. In fact, this is one of the more interesting security topics for children to learn about.

As they get a little older, you should also mention how computer experts can track every action that takes place on a computer, that information (particularly pictures) put on the internet are never entirely safe, and how child predators can lure kids into talking about themselves.

Support your child

The most important part of any conversation about computer safety with your child is to explain that you’re here to support and help them on their computing journey. Make it clear that they can come to you to talk about anything, particularly if something upsetting occurs online.

It might also help to show them the “Ignore”, “Block” and “Report” functions on websites, and to explain the concept of cyber bullying.

Conclusion

Well, no one said raising children was going to be easy! The above may seem like a lot of work, but it’s really just about being upfront with your child about what’s expected online.

Think about it like this: you wouldn’t allow your son or daughter to cross a road for the first time without supervision, so why would you let them travel on the information super highway?

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