E-Safety begins with a conversation between a child and their parents and / or carers and will be supported by their teachers at school when e-safety is covered as part of the national curriculum. You don't need to wait for the school to start this dialog - the sooner e-safety and responsible use of the Internet becomes part of regular conversation, the better educated and equipped your child will be in using online tools safely and responsibly.

Digital Citizens - Young and Old

The term 'digital citizen' is relatively new and increasingly common way of referring to the online presence of an individual, whether they are young or old. As part of the national curriculum, children are educated to understand the key characteristics of a good digital citizen, and encouraged to demonstrate consistently responsible behaviours online in class, at home and in their community. These include being open and honest, acting responsibly at all times, considering and being aware of the needs and feelings of others.

What are the characteristics of a good digital citizen?

Talking to your child about the importance of their behaviour online and relating this to their behaviour in the real world can help a child understand how the two are related. You can also discuss the good characteristics that someone might display as they use websites and apps online.

When talking to your child about being a good digital citizen, you might expect them to understand and demonstrate the following personal characteristics:

  • Using computers or tablets only when allowed by an adult
  • Using the websites and applications that an adult has permitted me to use
  • Knowing that if I see something that makes me feel upset or unsafe I will tell my parent, carer, teacher or other adult I trust straight away
  • Never sending or writing anything that will upset somebody else
  • Not downloading anything without first having permission from an adult
  • Not tell strangers my name or address

Establishing SMART behaviours

A good way to help children to remember the key characteristics of safe online behaviour is to use the SMART rules. The SMART rules work like this:

  • Safe: keep your personal information safe. Don't give out your full name, email address, home address to anyone you don't know. You should never share photos with anyone you don't know either.

  • Meeting: It might be dangerous to meet someone you've only spoken to online. You need to talk to your parents or carer about meeting someone before you arrange anything.

  • Accepting: It's great when you get messages or pictures from people you know. However, you shouldn't accept messages or pictures from people you don't know - they might contain things that could upset you.

  • Reliable: Not everything on the Internet is true or real and some people may lie about who they are or what they will do online. An adult can help check whether the things that you read or see online are true.

  • Tell: You must tell someone - a parent, carer or other trusted adult - if something online makes you feel unsafe, uncomfortable or worried. You must also tell a parent, carer or adult if someone you know is also feeling unsafe, uncomfortable, worried or is being bullied online.

What is private?

Conversations with children about e-safety can be difficult, particularly when talking about the risk of sexual abuse or exploitation. The NSPCC suggest that you can help address these risks by establishing some simple concepts early on, without using scary dialog or sexual vocabulary.

Using the Underwear Rule and the PANTS acronym, children can quickly learn what parts of their body should remain private and therefore set a clear precedent for appropriate use of social media when they are old enough.

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