Managing young children’s online safety

Friday, April 14, 2023

In this fast-paced digital age, children are accessing the vast world of the internet more frequently.

Although there are excellent learning resources available for pre-schoolers, ensuring their safety while browsing online is crucial.

Online learning has many benefits

Online learning has received more investment in recent years, particularly since the onset of the pandemic.

Online programs in the early childhood education space or just designed for children can offer various advantages, such as access to a wide range of programs, opportunities for exploration, catering to different learning styles, learning at their own pace, and flexibility.

Additionally, online programs can be an engaging and inspiring way for parents and teachers to educate children, outside of traditional teaching methods. These programs often use various mediums, such as video, audio, and interactive games, to engage children in learning.

The importance of online safety

We all know that the internet can pose pretty serious threats to safety. This is true for children, with online concerns including cyberbullying, harassment, predatory behaviour and exposure to unsafe content.

Letting children use the internet unsupervised is not the best idea, but with the right safeguards and supervision you can create a safe environment for children to explore online.

Staying safe online for children depends on parents, teachers and children being aware of the risks and practising safe internet habits.

Create a safe online environment: top tips

There are a number of ways to keep children safe from online threats. These include:

  • Using child locks and safety settings on browsers and sites
  • Setting passwords
  • Installing security software
  • Monitoring their internet activity
  • Establishing rules for internet use and downloading apps
  • Knowing what devices your child is using
  • Limiting screen time
  • Ensuring young children do not create social media accounts

Communication and watching for signs

These safeguards make it easier to create online safety for children but they can’t do all the work – it’s essential to talk to them about online safety. Establishing an open dialogue means that children will feel comfortable reporting anything suspicious.

Similarly, it’s a good idea to watch children for signs they’ve encountered something inappropriate, dangerous, scary. Stay calm and talk about anything that arises, then take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again by checking the restrictions and setting for a child’s online time.

Using technology to support online safety

Technology can be a big help when it comes to internet safety.

Filters are a great way to reduce their exposure to anything inappropriate – start with turning on “SafeSearch” in Google or the equivalent setting in your search engine. Check children’s browsing history and discuss any visits to inappropriate sites, explaining why they should avoid them.

Parental control apps can also be useful if you feel you need an added layer of security. Apps like iPhone Screentime, for example, enable you to set limits on how long children can access certain apps for each day. You might like to check out what else is available wherever you get your apps.

Good internet hygiene: explaining online safety to children

It can be tricky to explain online safety in child-friendly ways. Here are some things you could discuss with them to increase their awareness:

  1. Why it’s not a good idea to chat with strangers online.
  2. That dangerous sites sometimes contain malware and viruses.
  3. How to spot an online scam and the importance of never clicking on any downloads or ‘free offers’ without first gaining parent/supervisor approval.
  4. What’s counted as ‘inappropriate’ content or sites.
  5. Encouraging children to let you know if they come across anything strange or scary.

Emphasising that you’re here to listen to their thoughts and concerns is a crucial part of ensuring their safety. Children need to feel empowered to participate in these discussions and make safe decisions when using the internet.

Making internet time a joint activity is also a great way to encourage safe online behaviour.

Establishing fair expectations and rules

Part of this open dialogue includes establishing reasonable expectations and rules.

When setting rules it’s best to explain your reasoning so that children see the rule as a healthy boundary rather than an unfair mandate.

Limiting Screen Time

According to recent reports, most Australian children spend too much time on screens. Official recommendations suggest that screen time for children aged between 2 and 5 should be limited to one hour of high-quality programming per day. For children between 6 and 16, recreational screen time should stay around the 2 hour mark.  Limiting screen time is not only important – it’s essential for their development.

Safe and Engaged

At Practical Outcomes we encourage our learners to see the internet as a valuable resource for early childhood education. As a result, our graduates take awareness and good internet hygiene into their jobs in early learning.

We know that the internet can provide a wealth of fun, helpful and engaging programs for young children, and with the right tools and a little communication it’s a safe space for children to learn and play.

Discover up to date early childhood education courses with Practical Outcomes.


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