Starting the chat, an important part of growing up safe online
For the Cavanagh family from Cairns, talking to their kids about how to stay safe online is essential.
Parents Lyn and Chris are well aware of the potential dangers of their children accessing the internet and online content. They decided to start the chat about online safety with their children, Marnie (8) and CJ (4), to help equip them with the skills to use the internet safely.
‘We started to talk to our kids about online safety when they started school. For Marnie, our eldest, we talked to her about how the internet might not always be a safe environment. We always make sure that she understands that there are responsibilities for using the internet,’ says Lyn.
‘We talk about things like, if a stranger or someone she knows asks for her address or phone number, she's not to give it out.’
Chris and Lyn regularly talk to their kids about protecting their privacy and stranger danger, key elements of online safety.
‘The dangers we see for our kids at this age are really around privacy and protecting their personal information. People can manipulate the systems and ask for their names and addresses and personal information. So, we make sure that there's no way that other people can contact them online, and that if they do, the kids know to come and talk to us,’ says Chris.
The Cavanaghs are right to be taking the risks of online safety seriously.
New research commissioned by the Australian Government’s eSafety Commissioner found 1 in 5 young Australians and 1 in 3 adults have had a negative experience online. 1 in 4 young people report being contacted by strangers or someone they don’t know, while 1 in 5 report being socially excluded online.
Like many kids these days, Marnie and CJ are growing up in a digital world and have access to online devices from a young age.
‘Starting school, that's where a lot of kids pick up new apps or games they want to download. So, we thought it was perfect timing to sit down and say, well, this is the app that you want to use, and this is how to use it safely,’ says Lyn.
‘We try to make sure the kids are using their online devices around us and chat to them regularly about what they’re doing online. We also sit down and watch things with them,’ says Lyn.
For 8-year-old Marnie, being online is a part of everyday life.
‘When I'm online, I like to watch videos and play games. Dad says not to go on any videos that you feel wrong about or make you feel very uncomfortable. If I see something online that isn't right, I'll go talk to Mum and Dad,’ says Marnie.
Marnie also takes her responsibility as an older sister seriously, and says she will help younger brother CJ to stay safe online as he grows up.
‘I’ll teach him not to go on silly stuff like big people's games, where they talk on the microphone and people say where do you live and stuff. I'll tell him not to say anything,’ says Marnie.
Lyn and Chris encourage other parents to talk to their kids about online safety and access the resources available.
‘The eSafety Commissioner website is a really good resource to help keep our mob safe online. As parents, we really appreciate that there's a place where we can go to get information and make sure the apps that they're using are safe to use and child friendly,’ says Lyn.