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As summer approaches, now is the time we begin to make plans for family fun, amazing adventures and making memories. Of course, it will also be time to think up ways to combat “Mum, Dad – I’m bored!”. Given the current cost of living crisis, for many families, this summer will be about finding easy entertainment options that are budget-friendly…preferably free!
So, it’s no surprise that a Barnardo’s survey found 71% of 11-to-17-year-olds are expected to spend more time online during this year’s summer break, compared to term time. But while digital devices and online activities are a cheap and cheerful solution to school break boredom, we’ve put together our top three tips to make sure it’s a safer digital summer for children and young people.
1. Talk to your young person
Just as you chat to your child about their offline life, make sure you’re discussing their digital world, too! The experiences they have there are just as valid and important. It’s where they are forming friendships, socialising with existing friends and new, having their opinions shaped and creating and sharing content. And just like in the offline world, their experiences online can be good and bad so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open so they feel they can talk to you about their online life.
The summer break is a great time to begin these conversations; whether it’s day trips in the car or lounging in the garden, there will be more opportunities to chat. You could begin by asking questions about apps they’ve mentioned, games they like to play or something you’ve seen in the news. For example:
Are there any new games out this summer you’re looking forward to playing?
Do you still use Instagram a lot or are there any other apps you and your friends use?
I heard something in the news about Twitter having less moderators these days, have you or your friends ever experienced seeing something harmful or upsetting on there? What did you do and how did that make you feel?
If you find the young person in your care doesn’t want to talk, try again another time, maybe in a more relaxed setting or a quieter moment. They might just feel uncomfortable because they’re not used to being asked about their online life!
Is the young person in your care spending more time away from their boyfriend/girlfriend over the summer break? If so, talk to them about image sharing. Although it may seem romantic to send each other photos because they can’t spend time together, it’s important they understand the law around image sharing and what to do if they lose control of an image.
As young people spend more time online this summer, they may be more likely to find new sites and online activities to try out, such as livestreaming, ChatGPT or even a dating site. Download the Safer Schools NI App to keep up to date with the latest news and alerts this summer.
2. Try out online platforms for yourself
To get a better understanding of what the child or young person in your care experiences online and on digital devices, try it for yourself!
This can be particularly useful if your young person finds it difficult or embarrassing talking to you about their online life. Not only will it allow you to become familiar with the kind of things they will be engaging with, it may also bridge the gap to those conversations about the digital world.
By using the same social media platforms, games, and websites they’re spending time on, you will be able to understand the sorts of experiences they are having online and what type of content they are being exposed to.
Don’t forget to plan screen time limits this summer! Use our Family Screen Time pack for a fun way to approach the subject of screen time, plus come up with a family agreement together.
Spend time with your young person going through their favourite apps, games and websites. Discuss and choose together the best privacy settings for them and practice reporting content and blocking other users. This means that if they should ever need to block and report someone, they already know how to do it!
It’s possible that the young person in your care will tell you they already know how to use some or all of these settings and features. In that case, ask them if they can show you how it works and let them teach you instead.
You can visit our Safety Centre to find guides on how to block, report, and use important settings and controls on some of the most popular platforms and games.
Also make sure you have turned on all the safety settings and parental controls that you want to use – we know how easy it is to have good intentions about using these features but never get round to it! So, here’s a to-do list of actions you can consider taking:
Turn on safe search filters on my internet provider’s settings.
Enable parental control settings on all devices my child uses.
Change social media privacy to the strongest setting.
Sign up to the safeguarding hub newsletter on ineqe.com
Visit the Safety Centre.
Always discuss any parental control features you are enabling with the child or young person in your care to help establish mutual trust. It’s also an opportunity to talk about why you’re choosing to use them!
So, for a safer digital summer, make sure you remember toTalk, Try, and Take Action!
Planning to share photos of all this summer’s family fun online? Make sure to read our Safer Sharenting Guide first.
Just can’t get the hang of this ‘social media’ stuff? Do you want to protect the young people in your care online, but don’t know where to start? Our comprehensive training course, Social Media 101, is tailored just for you! We’ll guide you through the popular platforms that young people are engaging with and give you the lowdown on how they actually work. We’ll also shed light on the potential risks of social media and provide practical tips to protect the children and young people in your care. It’s time to take control and navigate the digital landscape with confidence! Register your interest below.
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