We explain how you can get involved and set some ground rules to maintain your peace of mind when your kids access devices and go online.
Engage in conversation with your kids about the internet, the latest apps and devices and what their friends say and do online. The reality is that digital technology is a huge and ongoing part of their lives, so keep up-to-date and take an interest, so you are on the front foot if something starts to go wrong. Consider our My First Mobile Agreement as a basis of understanding and a launch-pad for talking about the risks and benefits of being online.
Share your online experiences, show each other funny and interesting things you’ve found, or photos you’ve taken. Going online together demonstrates your interest in their online life, and they’ll be more inclined to trust you. Give some of the popular apps, sites and games a go, so you know what they experience. Ask your kids to show you how to use an app they love and watch them enjoy the role reversal. After all, this generation has grown up with devices so there’s a fair chance you’ll have plenty to learn if you’re prepared to listen.
Set a positive example and make it clear through your own actions what you value and how you expect others to behave. Demonstrate that you’re careful with your devices by locking the screen, turning your phone off at meal times, and never using your phone while you drive. Kids react badly to hypocrites. Don’t forget you’re a role model and your kids will follow your lead.
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 and help them strengthen their privacy settings on social media.
Everything you do online creates a digital trail. It's called your digital footprint and includes any information you view or publish online. Anything published can be shared, copied and changed – putting it beyond your control. We all have the power to portray a positive image, so help your kids do the same. Ideally your digital footprint will create a good impression of your identity and beliefs, with your behaviour and respect of others an example of good character. Encourage kids to think before they click, as the consequences of a miss-step can follow you around for a long time.
Remind your kids that there are real costs involved with the equipment they use. Smartphones, tablets, laptops – they’re all expensive to replace. Give them some responsibilities for the care and maintenance of their devices, and get them to think twice about throwing them around in their schoolbag. Encourage awareness of data limits, and set constraints around how much data can be used and who will pay if they exceed their limit.
Agree to limits by talking to your kids to find out how much time they need to spend, and should spend online and on their devices. Decide what you believe is a healthy balance and set some limits. Consider creating a media use roster to timetable tech downtime. Ensure that you build family rules into this agreement, as your kids want your attention too, so if the rule is no phones at dinner, it should apply to you too. Support and encourage your kids in activities that don't involve a digital device, such as a ball game, reading a book or getting out of the house together. Before bed, encourage kids to turn off their devices. Lack of sleep can affect alertness, concentration and memory. Start your blackout an hour before bed to ensure a good night's sleep.
Most kids use the online environment as a genuine extension to their friendships, but unfortunately there's a minority who use technology to harass and intimidate others. Bullying can thrive on digital media because it can be done remotely, on a wider scale and often anonymously. The lack of an instant reaction can give bullies a reduced sense of the harm they're causing. Discuss what it means to be respectful to and respected by others online, be zero-tolerant to rude or mean behaviour and let your kids know in no uncertain terms that they should speak up if they or their friends are being bullied.
If your child has been cyberbullied, talk to them and encourage them to stay calm and positive. It's important for victims to know that they're not responsible for what's happened, and retaliating can escalate the issue. Help your child block the cyberbully and remove them from their contacts. Report abusive behaviour on the digital platforms your child visits. Keep the evidence, so if you need to report it you have copies of the offending text messages, posts or emails. Most schools and institutions have policies against cyberbullying, so will work with you to find a solution if you report it. Get to know your legal rights by visiting Lawstuff, and of course, if the bullying extends to threats of violence, inform the police without delay.
The internet is awesome, but there's a bunch of bad stuff out there, just a click away, that you definitely don't want your kids to see. That's where parental controls come in handy. Check your operating system, search engine, and specific gaming platforms for individual controls to help manage your kids' experience. There are also ways to monitor activity and implement restrictions on specific devices. For our products and services, we recommend Telstra Mobile Protect for mobile devices and Telstra Broadband Protect for your home broadband. You can also choose a filter from the industry endorsed Family Friendly Filter scheme.
You can also lodge an illegal or offensive digital content complaint via the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.
If you need help setting some rules, check out our My First Mobile Agreement, which you can download and discuss with your kids. Use it as a guide to make your own rules specific to your circumstances and needs. Be clear what the consequences are if the rules are broken and ensure they earn the privilege before their rights are returned.