Grandparents guide to online safety

A recent study found that 4 in 10 grandparents help out with childcare in what has been dubbed ‘granannying’.

To help grandparents get to grips with life online, we’ve created a new grandparents guide to online safety – offering practical advice to keep kids safe this summer.

Inside the guide

Five quick online safety tips to get you started 

1. Know the rules and stick to them

Get to grips with what rules are in place for your grandchild when it comes to their technology. Try and keep consistent messaging while you’re looking after your grandchild so they have the same rules surrounding their technology use and what they can and can’t do online.

2. Gen up on your technology

Get to grips with what devices your grandchildren use – from a smartphone to tablet and ensure you know how they work.

3. Understand if the tech they’re using is age-appropriate

Talk to your grandchild about what apps, games, and sites they are using and make sure you know that whatever they are doing is age-appropriate.

4. Check parental controls

Many parents set parental controls through their broadband – make sure that parental controls are in place on your broadband where necessary.

5. Be prepared if something goes wrong

Have an action plan in place if they come across something that upsets them online. Offer a listening ear so they are able to come to you with concerns and together work out the best way to support them (whether it’s reassurance, setting controls or reporting the incident).

Screen time – How much time are they spending online?

Being aware of how much time your grandchild spends online will help you make the most of your time together this summer.

  • Discuss their screen time limits; are there any family rules about how much time they can spend online or are there areas that have been designated screen-free zones in their house? Areas normally include the dinner table or their bedrooms – depending on their age.
  • Screen time can be very useful to children as it helps them learn, create and socialise. During the holidays, it can help them stay connected to their friends but making sure they are getting a varied diet of online and offline activities is crucial. If you are struggling to engage your grandchild offline click here for more advice.

Parental controls – Setting digital boundaries

What are parental controls?

  • Parental controls are the names for a group of settings that put you in control of what content your grandchild can see. Combined with privacy settings these can help you protect your children from the things they shouldn’t see or experience online.
  • It’s important to get to grips with the parental controls that your grandchild is used to in case you are caring for them in your own home. Many parents install controls on their broadband to help limit what their children have access to. Not having the correct parental controls applied could leave your grandchild open to potential risks online such as viewing inappropriate content, having inappropriate contact or engaging in inappropriate conduct online. See our Parental Control guides.
  • Having regular conversations with your grandchild about what they get up to online will also help you keep on top of who they’re talking to and what they’re doing online.
Reviewing locations settings

Many apps and tech automatically offer the opportunity to share your location while sharing posts. Encourage your grandchild to not share their location or images in real-time to not give away their location. There are apps and technology however that offer live-location sharing including Snapmaps – which is part of the photosharing app Snapchat.

Do they use Snapchat? If so, here is some advice:

  • On Snapchat, users have their own personal avatar; when you click on the map section of Snapchat you can see where all your friends are around you. This location sharing can be very damaging to children, not just because it reveals their location to their whole friends’ list, but it can also make your grandchild feel like they are missing out.
  • On Snap maps you can see when your friends are hanging out together, in the summer holidays, this could lead to your grandchild feeling left out as they can see their other friends hanging out without them. To stop this you should encourage your grandchildren to turn off the location services on Snapchat, for a step by step guide on how to do this see the controls page.

Online gaming – Playing safely

With the rise of popular multi-player online games such as Fortnite and Roblox, it’s important to speak to your grandchild about what online games they are playing and on what devices they are playing them.

  • Games, like films, come with age ratings so you can check what your grandchild is playing is age-appropriate.
  • Simply search the name of the game in the App store and its PEGI age rating will appear in the app description.
  • Have regular conversations about the games they like playing and ask them if you can join on – so you can see how they work.
  • Make sure you’re asking your grandchild who they are gaming with. Many games have a social media element to them and therefore without the correct settings applied to the game they could run the risk of being contacted by strangers. Crucially, remind your grandchild that they can come to you should they face any abusive or inappropriate behaviour while gaming.
  • Finally, gaming addiction is classified as an official addiction by the World Health Organisation. If your grandchild is struggling to engage outside their gaming community and you’re concerned they are showing signs of gaming addiction visit our guide here.

Managing money online 

Increasingly as children spend more time playing online games and connecting through social media, these activities are also leading them to make more in-app purchases.

With money becoming more digitised in recent history through Apple and Google Pay on devices, as well as the growth of apps to help children manage money, it has become more important to help children understand how to develop good online money habits.

If your grandchild is gaming, using social networks or simply browsing sites online, here are some quick tips to help them address any potential risks of spending or managing money online:

1. Get familiar with in-app purchases in the apps and platforms children use
2. Use settings on devices and platforms to controls spending
3. Help them follow the ground rules their parents have set on where and how they can spend money online
4. Talk about the value of money with them so they can make smarter choices on what they buy
5. Talk about online scams and how to spot them so they don’t get fulled into giving away their personal information which can put them at risk

For more advice, download our Online Money Management guide.

Live streaming

A recent study by Internet Matters found that nearly a third of kids aged 11 to 13 are live streaming. This means they are broadcasting themselves live over the internet at the click of a button. Find out if your grandchild is keen on live streaming and what apps they’re using for this and who they are sharing with.  It’s important to recognise if your grandchild may be sharing personal information with strangers.

To make sure your grandchild is live streaming safely make sure they don’t reveal any personal details. Encourage your grandchild to only livestream in public so they don’t reveal important information about themselves and speak to them about the dangers of oversharing to an unknown audience.

What issues can children face online?

Inappropriate content

There’s a vast amount of inappropriate content on the internet that if precautions aren’t taken could expose your grandchild to online harm such as pornographic material, bad language, gambling, unmoderated chat rooms, and sites that encourage terrorism or racism.

Have a conversation

Encourage your grandchild to talk to you should they come across inappropriate content and find out how they accessed it.

Set controls

To stop your grandchildren from seeing anything that they shouldn’t – use child-friendly search engines such as Google Safe Search or Swiggle as well as setting up safety modes on websites such as YouTube. You can learn how to do so here.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying spans all different types of technology and children who are using social media or sites that welcome feedback such as YouTube can be open to comments from strangers. Bullying no longer ends at the school gates and children can be subject to cruel comments across all their devices including smartphones and gaming consoles.

Spot the signs

Visit our Cyberbullying hub for advice including signs that your grandchild could be being cyberbullied and stay in tune with who they are talking to online.

Talk about online behaviour

Conversations about their online conduct and how to block or report bullies are crucial.

Sexting

Sexting is the sending and receiving of explicit messages or images. These images can be shared via iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Twitter DMs, etc. Sexting is a very difficult topic to talk to your grandchildren about, they might not feel like they can talk to you about it.

Discuss 'think before you post' mantra

Remind your grandchildren that once images are sent on the internet you cannot get them back and they need to think very carefully about where that image could end up.

Be aware of steps to take action

If your grandchild comes to you after they’ve shared an explicit image and it has gone around a friendship group or around their school, then there are steps you can take. You can contact the social networking site and they will remove the image. If you believe the image has been shared with an adult you can report it to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

Peer Pressure

Children can feel especially vulnerable in the summer as there is a greater online pressure to post pictures of them having fun and living up to what their peers are posting online. Talking to your grandchildren about selfies they’ve seen online and their own self-image is really important as many children suffer from low self-esteem as a result of online pressure to look a certain way or post continually.

Help them question what they see online

Talk to them about how what they see online may not be a representation of real life and remind them that an image doesn’t define them.

Encourage them to have a balance activities on and offline

Encouraging time away from their devices and engaging in offline activities can help. This video from BBC Own It website provides online safety advice to children that can be shared with them to help them to get to grips with the issue.

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