The internet has become an everyday tool used by adults and children alike – because it’s so commonplace it’s easy to forget how powerful it is, and that it can pose risks for your child’s online reputation, or worse their welfare.

As a parent don’t let your own ignorance of the technology stand in the way of common sense, educate yourself and educate your child to keep them safe online.

By educating yourself and your child you can protect them and promote safer Internet use in your home. As with all bullying Keep the Channels of Communication Open.

Become involved in your child’s online activity. Parents should be open to learning about technology so they can keep up with their children and understand the risks they may face while on the Internet. But don’t think you need to know it all – common sense will take you far.

Ask them to take you to the sites they frequently visit and show you what they do.

Supervise Computer Use: The original advice was to keep the computer in a common area in the home, but given the proliferation of WIFI, 3G, 4G and numerous devices that can access the Internet this isn’t always possible. However when it comes to very young children it’s a good starting point. It also means you can be actively and regularly engaging with them about the things they’re doing at that moment.  It sets a tone for their online engagement – that it’s something to be enjoyed, not something secretive. Be aware of other computers and devices children may be using outside of the home.  e.g. an iPod Touch can be used as an Internet device, and children can go online via their gaming consoles. Older children will want to use their computer or laptop to do their homework and will often do that in their bedroom. Consider purchasing monitoring software to help enforce your family’s policy. Search online to find the latest products or ask your computer supplier for a recommendation. See the resource list at the end for some advice.

Apply Boundaries to computer and phone use.

Cyberbullying is often referred to as being 24/7; it isn’t, not unless your child has access to their phone and computer through the night. Make clear rules e.g. “no phones after bedtime”

TIP designate a place that all mobile phones are left in when everyone goes to bed, keep all the chargers in one place. With so many young people owning laptops or tablets, it’s harder to supervise Internet use.

TIP consider unplugging the modem/WIFI at a designated hour.

Communicate. Ask your child if they have ever been intimidated, humiliated or bullied on the Internet. Encourage them to come to you for support if they are being bullied. TIP Both of you should learn how to use the print screen option to save evidence of any cyber bullying or harassment. Lots of children don’t tell about cyber bullying because they fear their parents will ban or greatly restrict their access, or because they are embarrassed about some of the sites they have visited and don’t want you to find out. Reassure them that you just want them to be safe online

Check out The PDST’s Parent’s Guide to the Internet