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Do you really know what your kids are doing online?

By: Melissa Stevens

Technology provides wonderful tools for our children – they can access huge amounts of information on the internet to help with schoolwork, as well as informative videos, and learning aids. The downside, however, can be exposure to bullying via social media and inappropriate online content. Parents everywhere are facing the challenge of ensuring our kids are protected from the pitfalls of the digital world. So how do you go about teaching your children to be responsible internet users? Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong principal Brian Cooklin says while most parents are conscious that cyber safety is an issue, very few really know how to approach the issue.

“There is a patchy awareness of cyber safety by parents,” he says. “Some can be overzealous and this leads both to friction and contrary action by their child. At the other extreme, there are parents who adopt a laissez faire attitude and just give up monitoring their child’s activities. Most parents lie somewhere in between these two extremes. In other words, they are worried about cyber safety but don’t know what to do about it.”

image of Nord Anglia students using computers for cyber safety story
Nord Anglia wants their students to be responsible internet users

Brian says there are three key steps parents should take as a starting point to ensure cyber safety. They are:

  1. Monitor screen time and usage of devices
  2. Advise your children not to give out any personal information to strangers
  3. Parents to not share information such as photographs of their children, on open social media channels.

This advice is echoed on resources such as the internet safety awareness centre, webwise, which advocates that parents and children explore the internet together, and agree on home usage rules with your child.

A vital part of your child’s use of the internet and social media is their ability to be a responsible internet user, and to be able to identify positive and negative use. This will be crucial when it comes to the issue of cyber bullying.

“There is a fundamental issue to address the need to educate children in adopting the right attitude and forms of communication when using the Internet,” Brian says. “In recent years there has been a huge increase in the level of cyber bullying which can emanate from all quarters, and sections of society. This problem is caused by the misplaced belief that each person can remain anonymous and therefore be as abusive as they like. Teaching a sense of self-respect and respect for others is critical.”

image of Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong students who get taught about cyber safety
Cyber safety awareness starts from a young age at Nord Anglia

Brian says teaching respect, including in the digital space, is an integral part of the school’s values and curriculum from the age of 5. The school also holds workshops for parents.

“Introductory lessons before pupils can access the internet and use devices focuses on cyber safety,” he says. “Age appropriate guidance is then given at different stages to ensure that pupils are aware of the misuse and abuse of the internet.”

David Sheehan, the school’s Head of Pastoral Care, adds that there are many resources available to help ensure your child’s online safety. These include Childnet, which has support for schools and families on how to tackle a range of issues, and Thinkuknow, which is a resource and education program from UK organisation, Child Exploitation and Online Protection.

He advises parents to work through and talk about the resources with their children.“It will have more impact on them, you can check their understanding and it also shifts the use of technology from a solitary pursuit to a collaborative one, where your child is with someone else while they are online.”

Written in collaboration with:

Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong

3958 1428 | nais.hk

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