How to keep your 8 to 11-year-old safe online
As children become faster and stronger readers, they quickly become a lot more independent when it comes to exploring the Internet. In the same way as for younger children, the most important step you can take to protect your 8-11 year old is to be present. Stay close and have an open discussion about anything discovered online in the same way you would discuss a trip out of the house into the physical world.
As written communication becomes easier, children will also become more social online, putting them at greater risk from encounters with strangers. As children grow older, the conversation around their safety will also develop. The basics that apply to younger children are still relevant, but we can begin to add a little more complexity and responsibility.
Here are some ideas on how to direct that conversation:
- RESPONSIBILITY. Maybe your child now has their own device, maybe you cannot monitor them and their younger siblings, or maybe you simply trust them to be responsible. Regardless, teach your children to use the Internet as though there were a responsible adult behind them:
a- If they are not sure they should be doing something, they probably shouldn’t be
b- If they have questions or encounter any issues, they should discuss them with an adult that they trust
- BEWARE of enemies bearing gifts. The legend of the Trojan horse may not be a story your child knows but make sure they understand the moral: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone offers your child money, to meet up, solve their problems or simply seems to be a friend they have never met – teach them to be wary.
- FRIENDS. This one is simple: only connect and talk to people online that they know in real life. We strongly recommend that you connect with your children on any social media that they use.
- BE KIND. As peers move online, so can bullying. Being cruel online is easier than in person, as can be seen by the number of trolls. Because you cannot see the suffering being cruel causes, it is easier not to see the target as a real person, with real feelings. Teach your child to view the digital world as the real world – if it is not something they would say to someone’s face, it should not be said online. The suffering caused by online bullying is as bad as that caused by physical bullying.
- THINK before you write. Anything posted or shared on the Internet is there forever; once you have written something publicly it is no longer yours. A silly photo taken with your best friend could be shared with the whole school overnight if you are not careful.