As children become more independent online and begin to explore and express themselves, it can be harder to influence what they do. Our experts explore how you can use the new digital code to give them the support they need to have safer experience online.
Children are growing up as digital natives – they’ve never known a time without the internet. A new code of conduct from the Royal Foundation seeks to equip children with the tools they need to make the right choices as they navigate the online world.
There’s a crucial role for parents to help their children understand this code and use it to become good digital citizens. Read through the code with your child and make sure they know what it means in practice to STOP, SPEAK and SUPPORT.
Try to make this part of a regular, open conversation you have together about the online world to create an environment in which they feel comfortable approaching you with any concerns they might have.
Discuss different online scenarios that might come up and how your child would approach these, using the practical advice in the code to help them. Things like the report and block functions on most social media tools can give young people really helpful tools to deal with negative online situations independently. Above all, it’s really important that your child knows which trusted adult to talk to if they have a problem so that they never suffer in silence.
As a parent of a teenager you may feel that their friends now have much more influence than you and when you try to impart your wisdom they roll their eyes/walk off/laugh/pat you on the head. While their friends undoubtedly have grown in significance, you are still their safety net, but you may have to take a different approach.
The cuddles and chats of the primary school years when you shared your hard-earned wisdom and they listened with bright eyed enthusiasm have probably gone. Much like cats, if you run to them with open arms they will probably run off, but if you are a constant presence they’ll come when they need you. But be prepared. That means understanding the world they live in – especially the online world.
Get to know that code of conduct (Stop, Speak, Support) back to front. Create relaxed opportunities to ask them what they make of it all, and whether the code makes sense. Ask them to explain how they negotiate the risks and what their own experiences have been. The likelihood is they will delight in telling you how savvy they are (compared to ‘so and so’ from ‘such and such school’ who did ‘this and that’) and grab that opportunity to reinforce why this and that is never a good idea. Above all keep the lines of communication open. Listen, watch and be ready when they need you.
Navigating the online world for young people can be daunting and for parents trying to help them, it can feel even more so!
In the first instance, what is key is to encourage your child or teen to take a beat, pause and really think about the things they post online but also the things that they like and share.
In some cases, the pain that is caused to other young people is hidden rather than explicit so the simple act of posting a picture that makes someone feel excluded can cause unintended upset. It’s also important to talk to your child about seeing the bigger picture. When it comes to managing emotions kids are not as well developed as adults and as such, they are more inclined to act emotionally and impulsively.
Encouraging them to stand back and gain a better perspective on the situation before they react to is key. Invite them to speak to you or someone close about their feelings before engaging in a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the situation.
Social networking sites vary considerably in what their community guidelines are so, ask your child if they are aware of these guidelines. Discuss them in a ‘real world’ manner ensuring they understand why they are there, who they are protecting and why it important to do so.
Finally and very importantly stay informed and connect with your child regularly. It may be the case that these are ‘digital world’ problems but at the basis of all this technology lie human feelings and learning how to navigate these and teaching your children to do so is a parenting task that’s been around forever.
It is really important when thinking about the Cyberbullying Code – Speak, Stop, Support – that you talk to your child about being a good digital citizen. Ask them to think about whether they would agree with content if it was said face to face?
Encourage them to look out for others and report what they see online. You could use examples in public eye to help bring this to life. Make sure you model this behaviour online as well and set an example to them.
Depending on their age and unless you have reason to suspect they or others are at risk of harm – for example, they are talking to a dangerous person or they are sexting (sending someone sexually explicit images or messages) – then we would advise not to snoop on their private messages. If found out, this could mean that your child chooses not to share with you and hides their online activity.
Instead, we would advise:
The teenage years are by nature, challenging and transformative, giving young people the opportunity to explore their sense of self and values as they approach adulthood.
Also, it’s a time when they are developing the skills that will enable them to navigate the complex adult world. In order to do so, it is important that ideas and identity are explored and expressed in safe and appropriate contexts, even if they later look back in embarrassment and horror at their teenage self, as many adults do.
Social media behaviours such as recording the minutiae of the adolescent world disrupt this important life stage in terms of making what should be fleeting permanent. We talk to children about the impact on future reputation and career but don’t make explicit the fact that children are denying themselves and others the right to make mistakes as part of the growing up process.
Through engagement with the Code of Conduct, children and young people are able to reflect on the community and wider world to which they would like to belong as well as the person that they would like to be, on and offline, now and in the future.
See more articles and resources to help children stay safe online.