Parents need to be educated to keep children safe online

Children that aren’t allowed online are at increased risk because they lack digital skills

Some parents are not aware of the dangers if children are given a free rein on the internet.

Some parents are not aware of the dangers if children are given a free rein on the internet.

 

Although individual parents have a crucial role in educating and protecting their children from online risks, a broad community approach is needed to make it effective.

That’s why working with schools makes sense to father-of-two Marc Lowry in Cabinteely, Co Dublin. “It means all the children in a class can have a communal understanding.”

With a 13-year-old daughter and a son who’s nearly 11, he says he has faced that dilemma of do you try to cut your children off from the internet or enable them to use it?

In reality, with the proliferation of mobile devices, it is acknowledged that it is near impossible, never mind undesirable educationally, to keep your children off the internet.

Children banned by parents from going online are doubly at risk, warns UCD Nova start-up Zeeko. Children lack the skills to handle it when they, inevitably, find their way online and are then limited in who they can seek help from if something troubling arises.

“It was always my fear that if you restrict them too much at home, they may go to a friend’s and do something there we don’t want them to do,” says Dian Swanepoel, who has a son aged 11 and a daughter aged 10. He believes it’s important to keep on top of things and make children aware that if they see something untoward by accident, they can discuss it without being reprimanded.

Some parents are not aware of the dangers if children are given a free rein on the internet, he says, and he and his wife, Geraldine, not only have filters on their network at home in Blackrock, Co Dublin, but also keep a careful eye on the amount of time their children spend online.

“Parental education is the really big thing that is needed,” he says. Parents don’t need to know the ins and outs of everything but need to know the dangers and where to go to find help.

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