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Starting as we mean to go on...

Illustration ©Daniel Walsh

Between the events of 2020, and with a renewed lockdown this January in many countries, this expression has taken on a whole new meaning... As much as we're desperate to return to some degree of normality and continue with our pre-COVID daily lives, we have at the same time been forced back online again for work and school, and so it’s more important than ever to establish some ground rules and netiquette norms with your children around the online space. In this sense at least, 'starting as you mean to go on' is definitely a good idea!

It’s never too late to make New Year resolutions, so here are some suggestions from CyberSafeIreland to help keep your children safe online and ensure they have the most positive experience they possibly can.

Setting clear limits and allocated times for being online is even more important than ever. We recommend spreading this time throughout the day rather than going online in one long extended block.

Using safety restrictions can be a great way to filter content, but don’t rely on them exclusively. Make sure that your children understand how to recognise, block and report harmful content or contact, and it’s essential they know that they can come to you without judgement if something goes wrong or they get into trouble online. No good ever comes from hiding problems! In games, playing against only the computer is the safest mode, and beyond that only playing with friends from the offline world is best. The same applies to apps or platforms which have chat or messaging features. 

Keep an eye out (and ear!) out for new games or apps. Among Us is a good example of a game which saw a massive spike in popularity in the last lockdown, with a staggering half a BILLION users in November 2020 (Source: Nielsen’s). If you’re not sure, your best bet is to visit PEGI or Common Sense Media and do your research. You’ll be able to get all the information you need to make a more informed choice.

Difficult as it might be with current restrictions on movement, try as best you can to find a balance with offline activities, as too much of any one thing isn’t usually a good idea. Try our Stuck At Home site for some suggestions of offline activities that can be done both inside and outside the house if you’re struggling for ideas. 

It’s a stressful time for parents with the additional burden of homeschooling, but if you can bear to go online for even a few more minutes, why not try the latest game or app with your child? Who knows, you may even have fun! Even if it’s not really your thing, co-using technology with your child can be a powerful way to normalise discussions in the home around online life, and also allows you to not always be coming from a position of judgement or censure. 

Happy New Year from CyberSafeIreland, and we wish you all a smarter, safer year online in 2021. Please stay tuned for some of the really exciting developments in our programmes and offerings which are coming up! 

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Image Credit: (©Daniel Walsh)

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