Did you know that 79% of young people in the UK use the internet privately, without their parents’ supervision? This statistic may come as no surprise given that we are living in a time of increased media consumption, technology use and electronic communication, but it highlights how young people are becoming increasingly immersed in the online world.

There are clearly great benefits to children’s use of the internet, such as the broadening of their knowledge on a vast variety of topics, access to a huge amount of resources to support their hungry minds and greater proficiency in terms of digital skills. However, children using the internet unmonitored at a young age face a large number of risks. It is therefore vital that they are taught how to navigate the online digital landscape in a safe and responsible way.

Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School has produced the following guide on what you, as a parent, can do to ensure your child stays protected whilst online:

Have an open and honest discussion

Communication is the best way of ensuring your child’s safety and the conversation should be started when they are young. Discuss the dangers of the online world with them including the different kinds of harmful content, the types of people they should avoid and why it is necessary that as a parent you should be kept in the loop with what they are doing online.

Go online together

As well as being a great way to spend quality time with your children, going online together ensures that you stay aware of what they are doing, what they are exposed to and who they are interacting with. There are many games and online activities, both education and non-educational, that families can enjoy together.

Set parental controls

If you can’t always be online at the same time as your children, parental controls are available on most devices including computers, smartphones, tablets and gaming systems. These can help safeguard children by allowing you to filter, monitor and block certain online activities. Parental controls also allow you to set time limits on your child’s use of the internet if you are concerned that they are spending too much time online.

Keep devices in a communal room

If possible, keep electronic devices in a family space such as the living room or kitchen. That way it is easier to check in on your children and monitor what they are doing than if they take the device to their room. As your child gets older, and their desire for independency and privacy grow, there are still things you can do to make sure they are staying safe online.

Speak with them about posting

It is important to discuss with your child what happens once something is shared online, for example a photo or post, and how it becomes accessible for everyone to see and potentially remains online forever. Make sure they know the type of content which is appropriate to be posted online and what is inappropriate.

Discuss privacy settings on social media

Make sure they’re aware of the different privacy settings on social media and their importance. If their settings are set to public then anyone can see their profile and the information displayed on it. Whereas if it is set to private, then they have control over who can see it.

Talk to them about who they talk to online

Emphasise the reality of stranger danger and that people posing as friends can sometimes be the opposite, and may even be a completely different person to who they present themselves as online. Also tell them that it is always best to avoid discussions involving personal details including their address or the school they attend

Make sure they know they can come to you with any concerns

Regardless of their age, it’s really important to remind your child that they can come and talk to you about any concerns or questions they might have and that you’re always there to listen. Let them know that the internet should first and foremost be a fun, educational, entertaining and safe place. Anything that takes place online contrary to that is a cause for concern and something that it is important to discuss as a family.