Keeping kids safe online starts with having a chat

For John Paul Janke, a Canberra father to four young boys, keeping up with what the kids do online is important.

Aged between 14 and 6, the kids, like many these days, are leading busy lives both on and offline. Much of their time is spent playing online video games or watching videos online.

“As parents, we tend to give devices to our kids to keep them entertained. But we actually need to be aware of what the cost of that could be, and how dangerous that could be to the safety of our children,” John Paul said.

The key to helping the kids stay safe online, is talking to them about what they’re doing and keeping connected, says John Paul.

“I try to be aware of all the things they’re using. They play a lot on their gaming consoles so I keep across what games they’re playing. I look at the various instances in those games that allow them to play with the public, versus privately.

“And like most kids, they’re on their tablets or phones so I need to be across that too. I want to know what platforms they’re using, whether they’re on social media, or just surfing the web.

“You’re inviting the world into your house, so you’ve got to be across the various platforms, and the things they play. You’ve got to moderate their engagement with the world.”

“In our house, we talk about what platforms we use, so there are no surprises,” John Paul said.

New research commissioned by the Australian Government’s eSafety Commissioner found 1 in 5 young Australians and 1 in 3 adults have had a negative experience online. 1 in 4 young people report being contacted by strangers or someone they didn’t know, while 1 in 5 report being socially excluded online.

John Paul said it was important to discuss online safety issues and set up ground rules from the start.

“We haven’t had any issues yet with online safety, but we want to make sure that it doesn’t happen. So, we have open conversations about online safety, with the kids and with other parents.”

“Being a single dad, I talk to their Mum. We share online discipline and routine and how we moderate the kids’ accounts. The older boys can only have social media accounts if we have access too. And we’ve discussed various disciplinary measures if they step outside the boundaries we set, and they agree to being banned from the account for a day or two versus a week.”

“We’ve got a coordinated approach to parenting. We do that with school, and their life, but you’ve actually got to do it with their online life as well. So, what they get at my house is exactly the same as what they get at their mother’s house.

John Paul urges other parents to talk to their kids about online safety too.

“The way I look it, you wouldn’t drop your kids at the park and drive away. Keeping our kids safe online is no different – Start the chat, keep our mob safe online. The eSafety website, has information to help you”.