Today February 8th, is Safer Internet Day, and the key messages being promoted in Ireland this year are; “Talk, Listen and Learn”, encouraging parents to have conversations with their children, listen to what they are saying and learn about their child’s online life.
In preparation for Safer Internet Day 2022, children and parents were researched to find out their perspectives on internet safety and risks. Surprisingly of the young people surveyed, only 19% said that they would tell their parent/guardian if they had a negative experience online.
While this might be shocking to a lot of parents, reasons why this is the case were unpicked by a panel convened by Webwise, at a webinar to highlight Safer Internet Day. The number one reason young people would not tell their parents about negative online experiences, is the young person’s fear of losing their device.
Prachi Agrawal, a youth panel member of Webwise pointed out, if a young person was being bullied in school the solution would not be to completely remove then from education. And therefore, as a consequence of experiencing problems online, confiscating a phone is not the solution either. The fear of losing a phone for a young person, could be worse than the feeling they have had as result of a negative online experience.
Áine Lynch – CEO of the National Parents Council encouraged parents to use the opportunity of Safer Internet Day, to continue, or start, a conversation with their child asking the question, if something goes wrong online what is going to happen? That question can open a meaningful conversation about the young person feeling confident to share information with their parent if something has occurred that is making them uncomfortable. It also paves the way for the young person to find out from the parent about how the parent will react, if their daughter or son were to experience something negative online. Having a discussion like this also gives parents an opportunity to think through scenarios of what can go wrong, and if a problem should emerge, how they plan to respond in advance of it happening.
Colman Noctor, Child & Adolescent Psychoanalytical Psychotherapist, spoke about the importance of people minding themselves in the tech space. He shared the analogy of technology being like food, there is good stuff and bad stuff, and anything out of moderation is bad. As parents we have to teach our children that the online world will always give you what you want, but not necessarily what is good for you.
Panellists highlighted that parenting children regarding their online lives, is similar to parenting in the offline space, in so far as the parenting approaches evolve according to the age of the child. Maintaining a strong relationship is central, and since risks will emerge all the time in life both online and offline, parents and children must be prepared to deal with these issues if and when they occur.
Some useful tips for parents are;
- Find some shared activity online that parents and children can engage in, that taps into the young person’s interests, e.g. wordle, gaming, watching online content which the young person has created etc…
- The parent and young person have ongoing conversations about their respective online lives.
- The conversation generator on Webwise’s site; https://talklistenlearn.webwise.ie/ is a really simple but effective tool for getting started or continuing these conversations.
- Young people are not expecting perfection from their parents, so do your best and let your children know that you are interested in their online life.
- Make your child feel comfortable coming to you and asking for help if they need it.
This YouTube resource https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q0BjQyT5lE was compiled in County Kildare with Kildare based parents and created in collaboration between County Kildare LEADER Partnership, Tusla, CYPSC, Foroige and Cybersafe Ireland. It reinforces all the messages above, encouraging parents to keep chatting to their child about their online life.
Parents, today on Safer Internet Day, take the opportunity for action and start a chat with your child about their online life.
Áine Byrne is the Youth Education & Development Worker in County Kildare LEADER Partnership, employed under the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme.