Using technology: Keeping your child safe

It is no secret that schools in Melbourne have embraced a recent surge in technology to enhance the educational outcomes of students. Interactive devices such as iPads are common in primary and secondary school classrooms all over Australia, with children as young as five years old regularly exposed to this type of technology.

The learning advantages that accompany the use of technology in schools are many and varied but there can be issues with cyber safety. Social networking sites are now the norm for teenagers and while Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram can be fun, they can also serve as platforms for online bullying.

Another problem that can arise from social media is the grooming of young students by cyber predators, often masquerading as young people of a similar age. This becomes even more dangerous when publishing personal information, such as your age, address and phone number. However, there are means of combating these issues.

Communication

Having an open dialogue with your child about how they are using technology is very important. This doesn’t mean watching them like a hawk when they are texting or rifling through the internet history, as this can be a barrier to trust, rather encouraging them to always consider what they are doing online at school and at home, and to let them know they can come to you if there are any issues.

Consequences

Encourage your child to be a ‘good digital citizen’. Remind them that anything they post online will be stored somewhere on the internet and that inappropriate conduct can leave a poor impression when applying for jobs or university courses in the future.

Monitoring and cutting back

If you are concerned about how your child is using technology, there are several different solutions. Parental controls that allow you to block certain websites and initiate homework time blackouts is one way to keep children safe on a variety of screens, while designated curfews and “technology free” periods for the entire family, not just the kids, can also be beneficial.  

Don’t demonise technology

It’s easy to forget technology is a valuable tool for students at school. While there some undesirable aspects that must be policed, competence with computers and tablets are fundamental skills that must be taught given they are required in many professions.

Provide support

Sometimes, your child might not feel comfortable coming to you about what is happening online, so it’s vital to make them aware of support services such as Kids Helpline and how to report behaviour through social media sites like Facebook. 

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