Life & Style
Online safety tips for grandparents
Grandparents often worry about being in charge of children when they're using the internet. We've put together some online safety information and tips to help you help your grandchildren not to get into scrapes online.
It's normal to worry about your grandchildren and the internet. For one thing, they're mostly better at it than we are (it's one of the few areas where our wisdom is not in demand). For another, most grandparents want to be the fun people, not the boring old heavy-handed makers of rules.
Then there's the problem of negotiating with the parents - do you secretly think they use technology as free babysitting? Do they have rules they've forgotten to pass on?
The main risks to your grandchildren on the internet
- Seeing inappropriate material.
- Giving away private information that could put them in danger.
- Saying or doing things they might regret afterwards.
- Becoming a victim of online bullying.
- Spending too much time in a virtual world, to the detriment of real world lives.
- Scams and fraud.
- Sites promoting inappropriate behaviours, such as anorexia.
What you can do offline
Online risks aren't so different from offline risks.
- Children need to know the facts.
- They need to learn judgement - by being part of a family which watches TV together, so they learn how to judge between good and bad, fantasy and reality.
- They need rules.
Different families will put different emphasis on these three basic principles.
- Be interested in what your grandchildren do online - ask them questions about what they get out of their online activities, what sites they like visiting, and whether they see any risks.
- Take advantage of the fact that children sometimes talk to grandparents more easily than their parents. Encourage them to share their concerns - you may be surprised by how aware they are of safety issues. Or you may gauge that there are serious concerns that they don't know how to share with their parents.
- Discuss with the parents what rules they have. You may find they haven't thought about how to help their children handle technology happily - in which case you can point them in the right direction (when you've read our tips!) Or you may find they're well-organised and have simply forgotten to tell you.
- If your grandchildren are young enough not to have their own devices, it's a good idea to keep computers in a central place, where you can keep an eye on their activities.
Other things you might like
- Talk to your grandchildren about whether communicating responsibly means different things offline and online. (It doesn't! - a good rule of thumb is if you wouldn't say something to someone's face, you shouldn't text it, email it, instant message it or post it as a comment on someone's page.)
- Teach them to think critically. Just because it's written online, doesn't mean it's true. Reinforce what their schools are doing (or should be!), and talk about distinguishing reliable sources from unreliable ones and how to verify information. You can do this by relating their experiences online to films they like or dislike, or music - it's all part of sifting through and working out what matters, developing judgement you can rely on.
- Make sure that older children understand that cutting and pasting something directly from a website may be plagiarism.