How can I make socialising online safer for my family?

There has been a sharp rise in children and young people using video conferencing apps. Internet Matters expert, Dr Elizabeth Milovidov shares her insights on how to make socialising online safer.

Family of four sitting on sofa smiling at the laptop

Dr Elizabeth Milovidov, JD

Law Professor and Digital Parenting Expert
Expert Website

Today, children and young people are using video conferencing apps at increasing numbers, whether for class, for catching up with friends, or for reaching out to the family. And as more people are trying to maintain connections during the pandemic, we are letting babies and toddlers gurgle happily on camera via video chat platforms too.

But how we can maintain those connections and support our children, young people and even babies, in safe and responsible use as they socialise online?

  • When setting up meetings, be sure to password protect the chat so that you are not “Zoom-bombed” (someone unexpectedly drops in your chat)
  • Check the background behind you to make sure that all personally identifiable information is not in the video frame
  • Consider using a background or blur your background using the settings in the video chat
  • If you did not agree to be recorded, verify that the screen recording button is not blinking (and recognise that this is not foolproof, as anyone can screen record using other methods)
  • During a chat, avoid using the restroom, yelling at the dog or anything else that might prove embarrassing, annoying, or disrespectful
  • Depending on the nature of the call, dress appropriately and if you are going to chat from your bedroom, make sure that your camera is off or cover the webcam completely
  • Check with your schools regarding safety measures for the students

General tips for online socialising fun:

  • Do consider time differences and choose a good time during the day for your video chat, for example, when your children are not hungry, sleepy, or restless
  • Be as interactive as possible and plan to have a snack together, sing a song, play a game or read a story
  • Use lots of big gestures or get close to the camera so that young children who are viewing can enjoy your antics

No matter what platform you are using, continue to update the software regularly as tech companies provide security fixes in every update.

And as always continue the conversations with your children about their online activities, whether you are sitting next to them during the chat or not.

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