Information Technology Update – April 14, 2016
April 13, 2016
Online Safety – Family Internet Safety Agreements
The use of the internet at home plays a big part in our children’s lives. There are a number ways our children access the internet at home including on their smart phones, computers, laptops, iPods, tablet devices (iPads), smart TVs and popular gaming consoles such as Nintendo, Sony PS3/4 and Microsoft Xbox also provide users with internet access. While there are many positive aspects from our children using online resources we are now well aware of the many dangers that exist in the cyber world that we need to protect our children from. Setting boundaries for internet use at home for our children is part of an overall strategy that that can help keep our children safe online. Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, the nationally registered child and adolescent psychologist, has strongly recommended the use of some form of family agreement that sets guidelines and clear boundaries for our children when they access the internet.
One way we can set boundaries and clear expectations for safe internet use at home is to have in place a family internet safety contract or agreement with our children. This agreement can be printed out and placed in a prominent place in the family home to remind all users of the expectations put in place when accessing the internet. Family agreements can be more formal and signed by both children and parents after a thorough discussion and explanation of the contents of the agreement and the reasons for the need to have in place guidelines for safe and secure use of online resources.
As highlighted at our Parent Cybersafety night last year by our guest speaker Greg Gebhart, a key part of a family internet safety agreement is that we as parents are familiar with and have an understanding of the type of web sites and social media our children use when online. This involves having conversations with our children about their internet usage and us keeping in the -‘loop’ about what sites and social media they like to access. Summaries of many of the most popular sites and media our children access can be found at the Australian Government’s eSafety website’s -‘Quick guide to popular social media sites and apps’ which can be found at https://www.esafety.gov.au/esafety-information/games-apps-and-social-networking
Another key part of the agreement for parents is not to over react when we find our children have experienced something bad while online or indeed if our children have done something silly or hurtful online. Threatening to take away internet access or confiscating our children’s phone of device can actually lead our children to not want to report any bad online experience they may have had. Adopting an educative approach to resolving online issues our children have experienced is recommended by many cyber safety experts.
In setting out guidelines and boundaries for safe internet use in the family agreement, our children need to understand and agree to several key practices that help ensure their safe internet use. These include:
Having a sensible online name that does not reveal any of their personal information
Protecting their password and making their password difficult to guess
Not putting personal information online (E.g., name, address, telephone number, age or school name)
To act responsibly and respect others online
To behave online and treat people exactly as they would in real life
Be honest with parents about their online activity
To tell parents immediately if they have a bad experience online or ever feel uncomfortable from online activity
Not to contact or meet up with anyone they meet online without parents full knowledge and approval
Examples of family internet safety agreements can be found on the Ipad@SPC web site at http://ipads.stpats.vic.edu.au/family-agreements-and-resources.html . There are several different examples of family agreements here that you can choose from -“ from agreements that you and your child can both sign to a list of behavioural expectations that can be posted in a prominent place in the family home. I have also included an agreement in Microsoft Word format you may wish to edit to suit your family’s particular circumstances.
These agreements have been sourced from a number of highly recommended parent support online websites that contain many other valuable resources and are well worth looking at and include:
The Family Online Safety Institute www.fosi.org
Common Sense Media Family Toolbox https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/connecting-families/share
Mr Mark Holland
Director of ICT