Advice for the Holidays' article in latest UKSIC Newsletter
The summer school holidays are almost upon us and many young people are looking forward to a full six weeks of freedom, sunshine and hanging out with friends (as indeed are most members of staff!)
Part of that freedom for many Facebookers, gamers and surfers is extra time online, checking out school friends, organising get-togethers and making brand-new friends too. It’s also often easy though to find yourself spending more time on the laptop, console or phone than you might normally do during term; gaming or chatting into the early hours; missing out on physical friends in favour of online ones.
Here’s a few pointers and reminders that may help to restore the balance...
For young people...
- Be aware of the amount of time you spend online. It’s easy to interrupt healthy sleep patterns and meal times if you are an avid gamer, blogger or social networker.
- Remember if you are gaming with people internationally eg on COD, it is easy to forget they are in different time zones than you, especially if you have the pressures of a clan or guild to maintain.
- If you find yourself spending a lot of time at the device, give yourself regular breaks for at least forty minutes at a time. Keep hydrated, eat well and give your brain a break for a while. You’ll be a better gamer or online friend if you do!
- With increased time online there is more chance to come up against problems. If you do, then make sure you know how to get help; ask an adult you can trust for advice and support. If you can’t do that then use the “Report Abuse” button at www.thinuknow.co.uk. This will put you in touch with a team of specialists who can help you.
- If you are being bullied online and can’t find a trusted adult then contact www.cybermentors.org.uk for help and advice. There will be someone there online who you can talk to.
- If you make new friends online who live in your area, and you want to meet up with them, then make sure you minimise any potential risk... meet in a public place, during the day and take some trusted friends (or an adult) with you who can hang around to make sure you are safe. Probably a good idea not to go off on your own on a first meeting until you know you can trust them.
For parents ...
- Be aware of how long your child spends online and be prepared to intervene if you think it may be too long, particularly at bedtime and in the wee small hours. When you have work the next day, it’s easy to go bed thinking everything is OK. Let your child know that you have the wherewithal to limit their online time... you can do this by:
- Physical monitoring, asking them to come away from the computer or console for a while to help you with things
- Have an internet curfew at an appropriate time
- Learn to change the settings on your router that limit specific devices on your home internet network to certain times. This might take a little research on your part but the feeling of control that you get back is amazing... and will tip the balance in your favour.
- Explore the parental control settings on your child’s console... they are getting easier to understand and simpler to access. A little knowledge goes a long way.
- If reasoning fails then unplug the router at night and march off to bed with it!
- Your child may come to you for help if things have gone wrong for them online; we know cyberbullying and online issues rise during the summer break as engagement increases.
- Try to have the right response; one that encourages them to come to you rather than drive it away beyond your control
- Let them know that whatever has happened, you will help them sort it out... even if it is their fault.
- Be aware of how to report on their behalf eg how to report abuse on Facebook. There are some useful websites listed below.
Young people’s engagement with the online world is both powerful and enabling but like everything else can cause issues when it runs to excess. Help your child navigate this resource safely by being an integral part of it.
The SWGfL Online Safety Team