Online Safety in the Age of Extended Screen Time

June 4, 2020
June 4, 2020 Gitane Reveilleau

In this time and space where access to broadband connectivity and digital technologies have taken center stage in our lives, it is more important than ever to consider strategies and take steps to ensure our children are having a safe and age-appropriate online experience.

At AISB, we believe that keeping students safe online is a shared responsibility. We have intentionally expanded our K-12 1:1 program in recent years. Alongside this expansion, we have implemented a digital citizenship program paired with extensive security measures to keep children safe while using technology on campus. At school, student usage is monitored to help safeguard from potential dangers or unsuitable materials.

In this current context, we have been impressed with the progress our students have made and the substantial new skills they have developed while engaging with peers online.  The level of creativity and resourcefulness achieved by many has made us proud, and it has also raised concerns regarding responsible use and age-appropriate content.

There is no question that the shift to our Distance Learning Program has made monitoring screen time and offering the necessary support all the more challenging for teachers and families alike.  Like the adults in their lives, children depend on screens for both their learning and their recreation. In fact, as specialists suggest, these family-imposed rules are being re-written in real time.

In a few weeks, our educational community heads off into a restful, albeit different, holiday season. With an intention to help minimize the risks associated with extended technology use and to increase awareness of online safety, we would like to offer a list of suggestions and resources for you to refer to. Thanks go to the Educational Technology Team at Leominster Primary School, in the UK, for sharing these excellent resources.

Age appropriate

 

Seek to understand the terms of service and only give your child access to devices, websites, apps, games and social media sites that are age appropriate. Access the Common Sense Media trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books and music. Read each game’s advice for parents and play the game yourself to help you understand what it involves.

Appropriate content

 

Only give your child access to devices, websites, apps, games and social media sites that you feel comfortable with and not as a result of peer-pressure. The National Online Safety Organization, from the UK, has reliable guides about such tools as Instagram, TikTok, Whatsapp, Youtube, Roblox, etc.

Communication

 

Talk to your child about why it is important to stay safe online. Explain that while the internet is a fun, exciting and knowledge-rich tool, it is also a place where people may wish to lure them into dangerous activities or expose them to unpleasant material. Keep an open dialogue with your child; letting them know they can always talk to you about anything that has made them feel uncomfortable online is key to keeping them safe.

Rules and boundaries

 

Discuss with your child rules for being online and draw them up together, including which websites, games, apps, social media sites etc., are acceptable. If certain materials are off-limits, try to explain why. If your child uses online gaming, consider setting rules, such as only talking to people you know and having the conversations on speaker, rather than through headphones, so you can monitor it.

Information sharing

 

Talk to your child about what information should be kept private. For example, name(s), date of birth, address, contact details, school name etc., should never be given out to strangers online. Remind your child not to give out their passwords and ensure they change them occasionally.

Supervision, monitoring and parental controls

Ensure all devices used by your child are kept in a communal space, or a space where they can be supervised while using their devices. You can check what your child has been doing by looking at the history in your internet browser. Set parental controls which are designed to help parents/guardians manage their child’s online activities. However, do not rely on parental controls on devices over you offering support and advice to your child online, as they are not always 100% effective and some children know how to bypass them. The use of SafeSearch is highly recommended for use with children. 

For further information on setting up parental control see the following link:

https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/articles/Parental-controls/

For further information on how to set up parental controls on different devices see the following link:

https://www.internetmatters.org/parental-controls/

Reporting and blocking

 

Make sure your child knows how to report or ‘block’ unsuitable content, messages or people online. Show them how to block on the websites or games they frequently use and explain that they can always tell you, a teacher or another adult if they experience anything which makes them feel uncomfortable.

Other resources for Parents/guardians:

For more information and resources on ensuring your child’s safety online, you can visit the websites below: