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Legal Mom Column: Child Safety Online

Let’s face it—whilst being a supermom, there are some things that are completely out of our control. Child safety online is a constant worry for many parents. The Internet is the one place where a multitude of things can be hidden (from you) or given away to strangers by other people (including children!) who do not know any better.

In association with DelftMaMa, we have undertaken to deliver some practical tips and insights on what parents can do to protect their children online.

by Marisa Monteiro Borsboom

Can we trust the big tech companies?

Let’s hit the worst-case scenario, and immediately focus on sexual predators in the obscure digital field. What is being done? Is anyone overseeing these realms, or are we alone in trying to keep our children away from undesirable people online?

The truth is, many tech companies have failed to cooperate with the relevant authorities, both in their failure to remove discovered content and in regard to adequately policing what is shared on their platforms. Since currently there is no guarantee that tech companies and government authorities are well equipped to monitor and stop online abuse, it is important for parents to monitor the online activity of our children as best we can. Any child, no matter how internet smart, can be at risk; therefore, one can never be too careful.

What can parents do?

There are several ways to enhance your child’s safety online. This is a vast topic that we cannot properly address in our modest article, but we will try to give you some basic guidelines. There will be some resources linked at the end of this article for further exploration of the topic. While this article doesn’t intend to be exhaustive, these tips are a great place to begin.

1. Transparency

The key element for success is to be transparent with our children. For example, take some time to have a good talk with them about sharing private information online. Help them to think it through. Try creating scenarios where you can demonstrate your points.  Help them to see that things they now view as silly can have a negative impact in school and later in their career.

2. Share with care

For older children you can try to go deeper in the discussion and mention their ‘digital footprint’. Explain to them that they can see this as a tattoo that cannot be removed. Help them to see that once it is shared, they will not be able to control information that has reached the digital world.

3. Teach the golden rule, “What goes around, comes around”

While we are trying to protect our children, it is vital that we protect other children as well. Therefore, it is important to discuss responsibility in the way we communicate with others, and the overwhelming impact they can have on other children’s lives. With some care, do talk about suicide amongst children, since it is never too early to bring this up this topic.

4. Get in the ring

Making the internet a safer environment in which children can learn, discover and express themselves in a healthy way is a practical exercise for them, and for us. Learning in the field how security settings and privacy operate on websites, games and platforms would be a good, regular family practice.

5. Keep track

The previous point ties in with our last tip—stay current with new social media platforms and be aware of any new online safety tips. Be in the know about new technology and ways to manage the privacy of your children (and family) online.

Legal talk

Honesty and transparency are always the best policies. Let’s keep talking with our children about the real dangers of the internet and be sure to answer any questions they may have. The best defense is a good offense, so be sure to provide them with all the knowledge you can, to ensure an uplifting, safe and friendly experience for all. If you still feel concerned about your child’s safety online, we are here to help to the best of our abilities so don’t be a stranger and reach out to us.

Useful Links:

EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This website is a resource to educate organisations about the main elements of the GDPR and help them become GDPR compliant.

GDPR Official website

UN Convention: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Council of Europe: Children’s Rights

Q&A on ResearchGate: What is the difference in the European Union law between “minor” and “child”?

UNICEF: Children’s rights and Internet

Guardian.com: Are tech giants turning a blind eye to child sexual abuse images?

Information Commissioner’s office: Children and the GDPR guidance

StaySafeOnline: Tips For Parents on Raising Privacy-Savvy Kids

Information Commissioner’s office: Your Data Matters

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Kate Groves, editor

As coordinator of the DMM blog, Kate enjoys helping others share their stories and knowledge with the DMM community. When not working on the blog, Kate can be found working on her PhD while raising a human toddler and two feline kids in Delft with her Dutch husband.
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