Online safety guides and resources for parents and carers
The web is brimming with guides and games to help parents help their kids stay safe online in a fun, engaging and educational way. We’ve collected a few we thought were super useful.
Key tips to help parents keep their kids safe online
For parents, letting your kids loose on the web (or letting the web loose on your kids) can be a nerve-wracking experience. Handling that experience can be complex, but also rewarding. There are a few key issues to pay special attention to so you’ll lean more towards to rewarding side of things and the guides below will help you get there.
Key tips include:
- showing positive interest in your kids’ online life by getting involved
- having tricky, but open conversations about pornography, sexting, online bullying or other content that may be harmful (and how to keep them safe from it)
- teaching kids to recognise online scams or setting secure passwords to protect their ‘secrets’ (see below what that means)
- agreeing on ground rules with a family tech agreement
- setting certain limits with parental controls.
One quick note: most of the guides and games we link to will take you away from this article, so if you’d like to keep reading, remember to come back, bookmark this page or open the links in a new tab.
Did you know?
Helping your kids build good online safety habits is just as important as using security tools like parental controls.
Get involved - Showing positive interest in your kids’ online life
Parents who’ve spent time playing the games and using the social media apps their kids use report they have more clarity about how their kids interact online and greater understanding, empathy, and effectiveness when having conversations with them about online safety. Going online together also demonstrates your interest in their online life, and they'll be more inclined to trust you.
Engage your kids in conversation about the internet, the latest apps and devices, what their friends say and do online, and who they’re chatting with. Taking an interest can keep you on the front foot if anything goes awry. Why not ask your kids to show you how to use an app they love and watch them enjoy the role reversal?
- Online safety basics – eSafety: Positive interest and conversation is eSafety’s first strategy for parents to help their kids navigate the online world safely.
- Encouraging your child to ask for help – eSafety: The more your kids feel comfortable sharing their online life with you, the more likely they’ll come to you with questions. This guide tells you how to encourage that behaviour and examples of when kids should be asking for help.
- 2 sets of conversation starters – eSafety: Starting a conversation isn’t always easy. The following PDFs contain questions that can help you get started:
Tricky, but open conversations
While lots of online experiences can be wonderful and fun, there’s a bunch of dubious stuff out there, too. From talking to strangers, to bullying, to encountering unwanted content or behaviour, to oversharing personal information, a child who’s still learning the ropes of online safety can be exposed to many risks. Tools like parental controls can help limit that exposure, but the only way to really understand what’s going on and how it might be affecting your kid is to talk to them, even if it’s tricky.
The above conversation starters are great tools for tricky conversations, too, and experts recommend finding a place to talk where you will not be interrupted and remaining non-judgemental and supportive.
Ask lots of questions about how your child feels in order to encourage them to open up. Be frank when it comes to issues of sex and pornography, try positioning questions about their friends’ stances on things like sexting rather than asking what your child thinks personally.
- Hard-to-have conversations – eSafety: Tips on how to start the chat, with specific advice for different age groups.
- Helping kids identify and express feelings – Kids Helpline: Tricky conversations, whether about the online or real world, involve lots of feelings. Kids, however, often can’t express them properly with words and use other forms of communication instead. This resource gives you tips on how to encourage your kid to express feelings and how you can better pick up on them.
Becoming savvy about passwords, personal info and online scams
The line between public and private is blurry these days, so it's important to talk to your children about personal information, what it is and why it's so valuable. Explain how entering information on devices and websites can potentially leave them exposed. Help your kids set up strong passwords, encourage them to be cautious when sharing information or clicking links in messages, and help them strengthen their privacy settings on social media.
Teach your kids from a young age not to share passwords with others or across different sites and accounts, and get them into the habit of using passphrases, which are hard to guess and easy to remember. Start with ensuring your child has a unique password for every account. To do this, use a password manager. Free-of-charge built-in password managers are available from the likes of Google and Apple, but you may wish to pay for a service that allows for family password management.
Next, turn on multi-factor authentication on your kids’ accounts where possible, which makes it much, much harder for anyone but yourself or your kids to access an account.
Interland – Google: A great (and fun) place to let your kids learn about how to be ‘internet awesome’. It’s got 3 games focused on cyber security:
- Reality River: learn about online scams and phishing
- Mindful Mountain: learn about sharing personal info
- Tower of Treasure: learn about passwords to help secure your personal info, or ‘secrets’, from hackers.
Ground rules and a family tech agreement
It’s important to set ground rules around the use of tech and the internet for kids. The best approach is for parents and children to do it together so your kids feel included and gain a sense of responsibility.
Some examples of ground rules could be to use computers or other devices in a central area like a lounge room, or that doors to bedrooms remain open if kids are using devices there. You can also create a family timetable to manage downtime away from tech.
Family tech agreements – eSafety: Templates to help parents build family tech agreements with their kids. They come with handy examples, but you can come up with entirely new ground rules, too.
Setting limits with parental controls and account controls
Parental controls are very handy. There are multiple ways you can manage your child's access to the internet. Start out by checking your device's operating system, search engine, and specific gaming platforms to help control what your kids can see and do online. For example, most search engines will let you switch on SafeSearch, which will filter out inappropriate or unwanted content like pornography or violence.
You can also set time, functionality or age limits on the use of devices, software (like games) or streaming services, which can be useful to enforce some of the ground rules you may have set up in your family tech agreement. Be sure to familiarise yourself with these settings and controls.
- Parental controls – eSafety: A comprehensive guide to parental controls on a variety of platforms and apps.
- Parental control and content filter resources – Telstra: Links to parental control guides for various services, devices and apps (like streaming or gaming services).
- How to filter explicit search results with SafeSearch – Google: This will tell you how to turn SafeSearch on or off on computer, Android, iPhone and iPad.
Be a role model
Set a positive example through your actions as a parent. Tell your kids what you value and how you expect others to behave. Show them that you're careful with your devices by locking the screen, turning your phone off at mealtimes, and never using your phone while you drive. You're the role model, so leading by example is the perfect way to get your kids to follow your lead.
Also share your own online experiences or when you’ve found a cool new app your kids might like. Showing that you include them could encourage them to include you, too.
Are you ready for the DigiTalk?
Telstra has partnered with the Alannah & Madeline Foundation to bring you an online safety hub covering topics like:
- healthy tech use and screen time
- social media
- online bullying
- digital ethics
- and more!