What can we do to keep children safe online?

Most children have fun on their phones and online. We can help keep it that way by recognising and dealing with the top three online threats:

Cyberbullying: using technology like shared texts, emails, online posts, images, messages or videos to embarrass, threaten or harm. It can range from spreading rumours to encouraging violence.

Identity fraud: using someone’s login/password details– maybe to post messages, perhaps to steal money or buy goods – often without their permission or knowledge.

Inappropriate communication: anything from someone sending messages or posting images (of sex or violence) that will upset or intimidate a child, up to blackmail, grooming, or stalking. It includes suggesting a child does something illegal or that they don’t want to.

A threat can be very stressful for the child or family, but we can take action against it.

Practical things you can do to deal with mobile or online safety issues:

Stay calm and try to get as full a picture as possible so you can plan what to do next. Let your child know that they are being heard and supported and that together you will work out a way to deal with the situation. If they won’t talk to you about it, services such as Netsafe , Kidsline, What’s Up, or Youthline are there for confidential support and advice.

Suggest your child lets you help them check their online friendship, profile and privacy settings to make them more secure; most providers offer help with settings; Netsafe, Sticks ‘n Stones and the Office of the Australian eSafety Commisioner have great advice on how to do this as well as links to safety centres for all the main providers and game sites.

Block the sites or people involved, mute or disable the comment function on posts to stop unpleasant posting. Sites like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube all have safety centres that advise how to do this. You can always contact Netsafe for support too.

Consider blocking certain numbers or even changing your child’s mobile phone number. You can look up “How to block phone numbers” and the name or model of your phone online.

If it’s school-related cyberbullying, check out your school’s policies on bullying and contact them to see what they can do. They are required to have a plan.

Gather evidence: keep bad messages, take screen shots, record dates & urls, or print emails. Report anything inappropriate to the internet or mobile provider – they can take down or block certain sites, users, or numbers if they break their community standards or guidelines.

If the activity is really serious or scary, consider telling the Police. They can take action. The Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 is also there to protect us from online harm.

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