What our Lawyers say about online safety for your children
In the modern world we live in, young children are online before we know it. Connected toys, touch screens, different programs to watch on streaming services, video calling with family and friends, are just some of the ways children to use internet. Being online has many benefits for young children, including opportunities to explore their creativity, improve their language skills, solve problems, think critically and build relationships. However there are risks if young children use connected devices without supervision or for extended periods of time.
Parenting children when you are separated can be overwhelming, particularly if you and your former partner are not on the same page, or are hypercritical of each other. At Perth Family Lawyers, our solicitors have been involved in cases, when children being left to their own devices online has been the cause of contact being ceased, or children being retained, if they are exposed to inappropriate content. Accordingly, we recommend to our clients that they protect themselves against allegations that they are not supervising their children during their periods of care by doing the following:
1. Be safe
Set up devices safely and ensure they are only used in communal areas as kids need to be protected from exposure to content that is not appropriate for their age. Don’t forget that your children could easily be contacted online by strangers or people who pose a risk. Identify who ‘safe people’ are, like family and close friends. Make sure your child knows what their ‘personal information’ is. This includes their full name, date of birth, address, contact information and photos that identify them. Explain that personal information should not be shared with anyone they don’t know.
2. Be Kind
Encourage children to be kind and respectful online. You can explain that being kind online helps to ensure that everyone has a good time. Talk to pre-schoolers about the risks of cyberbullying as they get older and let them know you are there if someone is ever mean to them online.
3. Teach your children to ask for help
Let your children know they should always ask for help from a trusted adult, being a parent, grandparent or their educator. They should ask for help if they are contacted by anyone online, if they encounter a pop-up, if they are unsure about anything, or if they see or hear something that makes them feel uncomfortable, scared or upset. Teach your children to ask permission before they watch a new program, play a new game, explore a new website or download anything onto a device.
4. Make good choices
Get involved and take the time to sit with your children and watch their favourite program or play their favourite game together. Ask many questions – Why do they like it? Why do they want to watch or play it? How often do they watch it? Decide which activities will be ‘explored together’, ‘supervised’ and ‘independent’. All new applications, games and content should be ‘explored together’.
5. Balance screen time
‘Tech tantrums’, are outbursts when you stop your children’s screen time. It is normal behaviour for children to not want to stop a fun activity, whether it is online or not. We suggest you use a timer — and decide on the right amount of time and use a timer or a screen time monitor that blocks access. This can be helpful with very young children as they see the device is ‘turning off’, rather than you removing the device from them.
- Help your children transition to another activity — in the last five minutes of your child’s screen time, sit with them and engage with what they were doing. Suggest some other interesting activity which would make their screen time sound boring!
- Agree on device-free times — agree with your family about when everyone should put their devices down. Depending on your routine, for example this may be during lunch or dinner, or in the evening, or whenever works for everyone. It is critical that families spend time together ‘device-free’.
- Turn off all devices an hour before bedtime — research shows it is important to turn devices off at least an hour before bedtime to ensure your child has the best quality sleep. We know how vital it is for our kids to get a good night’s sleep to ensure they are healthy, mentally and physically.
If you have experienced issues with securing time with your children, or you are concerned about your children in the care of the other parent, we recommend you obtain independent family law advice from our skilled and dedicated family lawyers at Perth Family Lawyers. We have significant experience in dealing with parenting disputes and have many tools in our kit to assist you to get the best outcome for your children.