Consent online can be broken down into 2 parts: giving permission for your content to be used and asking permission to use other peoples. As a parent, it’s about empowering your child to take ownership of the decisions they make online and at the same time, checking in with them to make sure everything is ok.
Why is it any different to consent offline? Well, in short, it shouldn’t be and the same values of respect, courtesy and patience should apply. But, when we’re living in a world where self-worth can be valued by the number of likes a piece of content receives, giving permission is reduced to a box-ticking exercise and don’t even get me started on persuasive design, is it any surprise that consent becomes a neglected online topic? Furthermore, as parent’s we’re tasked with teaching the moral values associated with consent on the one hand but then persuaded by commercial companies that monitoring apps used to keep an eye on what our children get up to online without them knowing about it are the best way to keep children safe. Also when we can’t resist sharing that #proudparent moment we fall into sharenting territory often not considering our child’s rights. We cannot expect our children to value consent in online relationships when we belittle and contradict the moral values underpinning it on a daily basis.
So how can you tackle this topic with your own children? It doesn’t have to be a new conversation, make it part of the chats you’re already having. Talking about self-worth and how this is valued is a good place to start. If we can talk openly with our children about what self- worth means this will inevitably open up other discussions around body image which may, in turn, lead onto how this is perceived online. A natural progression from this point may be to talk about consent, talking about power, image, shame, empathy and all the morals associated with this topic.
Need a helping hand getting the conversation flowing? Why not take a look at the SID 2019 education packs for parents and carers for starters. Try not to worry too much if something distressing comes to light as a result of the discussions you’re having. If we can get confused about our own rights and responsibilities regarding consent in an online world it’s only fair to allow our children space to explore their own perceptions about consent online. You may talk about harmful online behaviours and this might make you feel uneasy but don’t panic; there is support out there:
SWGfL’s new tool, Report Harmful Content Online is available to anyone over the age of 13 and provides information on community standards for all the main social networking sites including how to report harmful content online. Where reports have been made and content not removed, we can mediate, explaining why content hasn’t been removed and providing assistance in removing harmful content from platforms where appropriate.
The best thing you can do as a parent is to try and keep an open and honest dialogue with your child, building on the trust that is key to a successful parent/ child relationship every day. This way, when they do need help, they’ll more likely come to you and knowing is the first step towards being able to help.