Online Safety Guide for Parents During COVID-19 Lockdown (3) – Asian Mums Network & Cyber Safe Zone

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Introduction

Schools are closed for an indefinite period to combat COVID 19. As children will be at home for long periods of time and perhaps experiencing isolation, they may reach out to social networks to combat feelings of loneliness stress or anxiety. This may put young people at risk and in harm’s way, however, if you have existing family safeguards and rules in place please reinforce them with your child.

If you don’t normally speak to your child about their online activity take this opportunity to do so and become familiar with the range of social media apps and chat platforms they use and their functions. Ask questions such as what do they use the app for?  Who do they interact with? How do they make sure, they are safe? You may find out that your child knows a lot about online safety already. Asking these key questions is vital as children could be at risk of several online harms, including grooming, exploitation, radicalisation and bullying.  Many of these issues could impact on your child’s safety, mental health and wellbeing. We have come up with a range of online risks to consider.

Sharing information online

  • Be careful about what they share online and their digital footprint
  • Be careful not to share personal information online with strangers
  • Make sure they are confident to report inappropriate conversations, messages or behaviours to a trusted adult.

Age-inappropriate content or fake news

  • Content can be accessed through social networks, online games, blogs and websites.
  • Young people may come across content that is inappropriate, hurtful or harmful.
  • Does your child understand the difference between fake news, bias and content from a reliable source?

Contact and strangers: bullies, groomers or radicalisers

  • Children can make friends online during this period who may not be who they say they are.
  • A stranger can gain access to your child’s personal information including school and home address
  • Speak to your child about their friend’s list.
  • Encourage the young person to remove any unknown contacts.
  • Ask them how they differentiate between trusted contact and a stranger online?
  • Does your child have privacy settings on their apps? If not, add privacy settings to all apps.
  • If there has been inappropriate contact or your child has been approached by a stranger online, report this to the police or the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (www.ceop.police.uk).
  • In case of bullying on or offline, is your child confident to report this to a trusted adult?

Hidden costs of advertising in apps, games and websites

  • Children can be at risk of commercial exploitation online, including apps, advertising or marketing schemes
  • Make sure your children know how to keep personal information private. Block popups and spam emails on devices.
  • Consider using a generic family email for registering online forms.
  • Radicalisers from extremist groups could target individuals via several means:
  • face to face organised groups but children can be radicalised online.
  • Both the Far Right and Islamist inspired groups to use societal or political grievances during times of instability to pull young people into the world of extremism, violent ideologies
  • Extremist groups radicalise using racist memes or videos promoting a “them and us” narrative.
  • Online mainstream platforms or encrypted messenger apps can be used by extremists to groom young vulnerable people.

Gaming, Apps, Chats and online activity during COVID 19 and homeschooling – advice for parents and carers

Safe gaming and online social media apps during the school shut down

  • During this time of homeschooling, many children and young people may be playing a video game or keeping themselves entertained and connected on Apps. It might be Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox or Apex Legends, however, they need to keep extra safe online. There are a few risks you need to be aware of to help children stay safe and have positive gaming experiences.
  • Risks can include bullying, grooming, addiction and on some online gaming chat platforms young people can be exposed to racist, misogynist and homophobic comments and ideologies.
  • Make sure you are aware of online Gaming PEGI ratings and recommended social media age restrictions. Have a conversation about why they are important.
  • Age ratings help us understand what online entertainment is age-appropriate for young people. We’re familiar with age ratings for films but we might not be so used to them when it comes to apps and games.
  • Check this advice page for parents and carers on gaming including age ratings, scams and hacks, passwords and usernames and more.

What you can do?

  • Ask your children what games they play online and why they enjoy this particular gaming platform.
  • Ask them about risk, PEGI ratings, what aspects of gaming they don’t enjoy and how they keep themselves safe.
  • Ask your child if there are any financial requirements to play the game.
  • Ask your child if they are aware of safety features for gambling.  Do, they know how to block and report?
  • Agree with acceptable safe behaviours while gaming, i.e. never sharing any personal information such as location, school or age.
  • If games include chat features make sure young people understand people aren’t always who they say they are and could be groomers, predators or radicalisers.

Health and wellbeing online

It’s therefore imperative that they take regular breaks while either gaming or any other online activity.

Set limits on how long they should be playing on any kind of social media or gaming platform. This can lead to addiction, sleep deprivation and affect mental health wellbeing. This family agreement template may help:

Depending on government guidance it may be increasingly limited to let them go out of the facility of the home or garden, so breaks are imperative, so consider offline games such as board games, puzzles and activity books.

Make sure you are the boss of everything that goes on at home and you know how to manage your parental controls when your children are online especially when they are unsupervised.

*Checkout Childnet advice about time spent gaming including screen time and digital well-being.

Most popular games right now: (Childnet)

  • Fortnite (PEGI rating 12) is a free game, where 98% of the human population is gone and your job is to survive by gathering ammunition, food and rebuild civilisation.  You can purchase additional ammunition, clothing, other items including the famous Fortnite dances or emotes.
  • Minecraft (PEGI rating 7) is an open-ended building game, that you can play in creative mode (you create things and cartoon-like monsters can’t attack you), survival mode (you must survive against monsters and hunger) or adventure mode (you cannot break blocks,  you can kill or be killed by monsters).
  • Roblox (PEGI rating 7) is a gaming platform where multiple players interact and play together online. Every game on Roblox is created by users and the games can vary from delivering pizzas to roaming a kingdom as a medieval knight, to even starring in a fashion show.
  • Apex Legends (PEGI rating 16) is an online game which is free to play where players join small ‘squads’ of 3 players and then fight other players to be the last squad standing. Each individual player can pick to play as one of eight characters, with special skills and offensive abilities.

For more information, check the UK Government guidance by clicking the link below: https://bit.ly/2VnaL3g

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