From watching their favourite YouTube videos and playing online games to using social media, children start their online journey at a young age. So it’s important to protect their online safety, especially when they are in your care.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a tech expert, you can still play an active part in helping your grandchildren build good online habits. Just by talking to your grandkids and showing an interest in what they do online can open up a conversation about online safety.
So how do you keep your grandchildren safe online? The eSafety Commissioner has developed a handy guide for grandparents about online safety issues that can affect young people. Here we share some great tips from the guide.
In this article:
1. Set up devices safely
Before the kids even start using your device, it’s a good idea to activate some safety features:
- Set up a strong password that only you know so that they can’t access your device without your knowledge.
- Activate ‘Safe Search’ on search engines like Google to hide adult content. You could also try getting younger children to use child-friendly search engines like kiddle.co and safesearchkids.com.
- Use YouTube Kids for family friendly videos. You can choose what type of content the kids can watch according to their age, limit screentime and block videos.
2. Teach children to ask for help
Let your grandchildren know they can come to you or their parents and carers when they see something online that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared. Encourage them to ask for help when they accidentally press something they shouldn’t have and reassure them they won’t get into trouble. Work with their parents so you have a coordinated approach.
Teach your grandchildren to ask for help when things like this happen:
- They are contacted online by someone who they don’t know in person.
- Someone is pressuring them to do something they don’t want to do.
- They are offered to buy something while using an app.
- A pop-up appears on the screen.
3. Set screen time limits
Unfortunately, there is no magic number to tell you how long your grandchild should spend online. It really depends on a range of factors like their age, maturity level and what they’re doing online. The most important thing is that online time doesn’t interfere with offline time and face-to-face connections with other people.
If they’re old enough, try agreeing on a screen time limit with your grandchild and set a timer as a reminder. Try to avoid devices around bedtime too. Research shows that turning off devices at least one hour before bedtime helps kids get a better night’s sleep.
4. Safer online gaming
There are pros and cons to kids playing online games. It can improve your grandchild’s coordination, problem-solving and multi-tasking skills, however too much time gaming can have a negative impact on their health, emotional wellbeing and ability to study.
Here are a few tips to help ensure a safer gaming experience:
- Encourage your grandchild to play online games in the communal area instead of their bedroom.
- Teach your grandkids not to click on links provided by strangers.
- Protect children’s personal information by encouraging them to use a screen name that doesn’t reveal their real name or date of birth.
- Stay involved and talk to your grandchild about the games they play and who they play with online.
- Check they stick to appropriate games for their age. All games have a classification rating (just like films) that can help you decide whether the content is suitable for your grandchild.
5. Dealing with cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is when someone uses the internet to seriously humiliate, harass, intimidate or threaten another person. It can involve things like sending abusive messages, spreading mean gossip, or creating fake accounts in somebody else’s name to humiliate them.
It may not be easy for your grandchild to reach out for help when they’re being cyberbullied. They may worry about making the situation worse or having their device taken away from them. However, there are signs you can look out for, including:
- They may seem upset after the have been online.
- Changes in their personality such as becoming more withdrawn, anxious, sad or angry.
- Unexpected changes in their friendship groups.
There are things you can do to help your grandchild if they are experiencing cyberbullying:
- Listen and be supportive. Make them feel heard, try to remain calm and non-judgemental.
- Measure the scale of the problem. Is it a few remarks here and there? Or is it much more serious?
- Empower your grandchild. Try to build their confidence and help them to make decisions for themselves when they are aware of their options.
- Collect evidence, like screenshots, in case you may need to report the cyberbullying.
- Block and manage contact with others. Advise your grandchild not to retaliate or respond to bullying messages. Help them to unfriend or block the person(s) sending the messages.
If your grandchild is experiencing serious cyberbullying, first try contacting the social media service or online platform where it’s happening. If they don’t remove the material within 48 hours, you can make a cyberbullying complaint to the eSafety Commissioner. You’ll find the link in this guide under Useful information.
6. Turn off in-app purchasing
Some apps come with in-app purchases that, for example, let you pay for an ad-free version of the app, extra features, or to unlock new levels in a game. They get charged to the credit card you used to sign up to the app store.
So to avoid unexpected costs from in-app purchases, you can adjust some settings on your smartphone or tablet. For example, you can set up so that a password is needed for every in-app purchase, or you can disable in-app purchases altogether.
We have step-by-step instructions on how to stop in-app purchases on your smartphone or tablet. See the link to How much does an app cost? under Useful information.
For more information
If you would like to discover more tips on how to keep your grandkids safe online, you can download a copy of the eSafety Grandparents Guide or order the booklet to be posted to you. Visit the eSafety website for more information.
What you can report to eSafety
How much does an app cost? Find out how to stop in-app purchasing on your iPhone or Android phone
How to turn SafeSearch on in Google