After a Christmas when many children will inevitably have a new phone or games console, keeping young people safe and protected online is more important than ever.
Many parents often find themselves struggling with the latest technology and therefore many times have no idea what their children are doing online or who they may be talking to.
It comes as the PSNI confirmed that a 28-year-old man had been arrested in the Coleraine area on suspicion of attempted sexual communication. He is due to appear in court next month.
Following the arrest, police issued an appeal for parents to be aware of what their children might be accessing online and particularly pointed out the dangers of online gaming.
Earlier this month, the PSNI revealed reports of online child sexual abuse crimes have jumped by over 80% in the last three years with many children being approached by sexual predators online and across gaming platforms.
The PSNI, alongside the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland have gathered together some key tips on keeping children safe online.
Talking to children about what they are doing online:
One of the best ways to keep kids safe online is having open dialogue about the things they are doing online.
Having open conversations without judgment about the online world they are engaged in will ensure that your child feels confident they can come to you.
This could be from asking them what they are doing online, what websites and apps they use when on a device and who they might be talking to when using social media or playing an online game.
Get to know the technology your child is using:
If you don’t know how to use your kid’s mobile phone, tablet or games console, the chances are you won’t know when they are using it to access potentially harmful material or communicating with someone inappropriately.
If your child has a new console or device after Christmas, take the time to familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of it yourself.
This could include seeing whether any age restrictions can be set up beforehand or putting any filters in place to ensure that appropriate measures are set up from the moment they start using it.
Parental controls for every kind of device can usually be found in the manual or website of the device itself and there are numerous guides and resources online for setting up safety features.
Learn about the games your child likes to play online:
One of the tips from the PSNI includes encouraging parents to participate in some of the games their child likes to play online.
The benefits of doing so include building trust among parent and child which then makes it easier to start those constructive conversations about what your kid is doing, who they are talking with online and importantly who is talking to them.
It is also important to remind children how important it is to tell a trusted adult if something happens online that makes them feel uncomfortable or worried.
They should also be shown the tools many games include for reporting inappropriate and abusive behaviour online.
Managing screen time:
If your child is constantly on their device when they cannot be supervised, there is a greater chance they may come into contact with harmful activity online.
It is important to talk about screen time beforehand, so everyone in the household is aware of what is an acceptable amount of time and agreed on an appropriate level.
A lot of devices and apps now also include screen time limits which can be set up to actively restrict access to devices and gives parents a bit more peace of mind over their children’s usage of their new games console or phone.
Checking a videogame’s content and or age suitability:
Pan European Game Information (PEGI) age ratings and content icons are there to help you decide what games are suitable for your child.
The content icons indicate game content such as bad language, violence, references to drugs or sex, and whether the game has an online mode.
You can also consider using parental controls on devices to minimise the risk of your child seeing something upsetting. Depending on the device, you might also be able to control whether your child can download or purchasing new apps.News