February 11 marks Safer Internet Day, a worldwide event that aims to raise awareness of online issues affecting children, ranging from cyber-bullying to online predators. It is a dedicated calendar day but events such as teachers raising issues in school tend to run throughout the week.

It’s often tough for parents to keep track of their children’s online meanderings. Many parents don’t understand how to use safety features on their child's social media, apps, and games, and it’s a truism that many children see inappropriate content.

Online bullying is also prolific whether its verbal abuse between children who are taking part in online games, older teens with a few hacking skills cutting off a younger's child's access to a game, children ganging up on a quieter child or a child that doesn’t fit in and so on.

While not as common as bullying, online marauders are another concern and especially for vulnerable children and teens that can be exploited by these dangerously wily predators.

So how do you help safely steer your children through the dark places of the online world?

  • It might seem like an obvious point but the most important thing parents can do is start to talk about online safety with their children at an early age and engage with them in their online life as soon as possible.
  • Today many kids have their first digital devices around the age of four. The minute children get these devices is the minute parents need to also step in. This helps create an environment in which children feel comfortable talking to parents about cyber-bullying and other issues, as they grow.
  • Also, consider supervising a child’s internet usage when they are at an early age. This includes limiting screen time, managing access to apps and blacklisting websites that are inappropriate. BullGuard provides comprehensive and discreet parental controls that allow you to block access to questionable and inappropriate websites, set up search filters, limit browsing time, control activity and even block certain applications.

As children grow into their teens and develop a greater sense of independence, you might find it more difficult to keep a watchful eye. However, within this context, there is some valuable advice you can impress upon them.

  • It's important to protect your online reputation and think before something is posted. Content posted online can last forever and could be shared publicly by anyone. Think of the future and the things that might come back to haunt you.
  • Know where to find help. For instance, understand how to report abuse to service providers and also how to use blocking and deleting tools. If something happens that is upsetting it's never too late to tell someone.
  • Don’t give in to peer pressure or be swayed by moods. If you lose your inhibitions online you've lost control and once you’ve pressed send you can’t take it back. Many children will sail through their internet life without any problems. It's likely though that a large percentage will experience things like cyberbullying. However, with support and understanding, many of today's kids will grow up to be cyber aware and tomorrow's cybersecurity advocates.