Home →

School Holiday Online Safety

Term 1 holidays are fast approaching and the very real ‘anxiety’ around what to do with the kids, especially for working parents is probably on your mind right about now.

When I was working full-time in the Police, it was always a juggle and challenge. The current work place legislation and culture, certainly doesn’t allow for much leeway with working parents and I was always resentful of having to work holidays.

Because of this, it can be a real challenge to find ways to keep our kids occupied and safe and inadvertently, we sometimes have to rely on devices.

With increased time at home, plus increased time online leading to increased access to potential issues and dangers, having a few conversations and making a plan is a good idea and an even better way to parent.

We don’t need to have a plan for every second of every day, I mean it’s always good for them to get a little bored, but we do need to know that our kids have the awareness and the solutions to help them get through any tricky or dangerous situations.

Especially if we won’t be directly on hand to help them or they will be in the care of another family member or friend. Here are some considerations and discussions to have with your child/teens before the holidays start:

  1. What are they into right now? Awareness is a good start!

    Whatever is popular right at the minute will most likely be the game/app that they will spend the most time on whilst they are not at school.

    - What game/app are they into right now? If you haven’t already, get to know it and check it out to identify any risk factors like private messaging and strangers who can friend request.
    - Who are they usually or most likely going to spend time with playing online and are they friends they know in real life or online only?
    - Secondary to that, how are they communicating with their friends online if not directly through the game or app e.g. Do they use Discord or another messaging app to speak with their friends?

Download my Busy Parents Online Safety Checklist or the Safe Gaming Checklist for Busy Parents for more ways to keep your kids safe whilst gaming.

  1. How long each day during the holidays do you think is appropriate to game/be on social media etc? 

Coming up with a plan and discussing it together is a way to prevent issues and fights during the holidays.

- Will they have a time limit to how much time is spent online per day/week?
- What time do they need to stop gaming/being online each night?
- Do they have to do something else like chores or non-online activities first before going online? (Highly recommended to ensure they have some outside activities each day)

  1.  Have you set-up age-appropriate restrictions on their devices to help you keep harmful or dangerous content away from their eyes?

    - How do you restrict illegal or in-appropriate content?
    - Do you use Screen Restrictions or Family Link or another app?
    - Have you restricted their access to downloading new apps or games?

  2. Is there any supervision or oversight for them during the time they’ll be online?

    - Are you going to be checking each night or every couple of days what and who they have been gaming/talking to online?
    - Will there be someone to keep an eye on what they are doing online or will they be home alone, in the care of someone else? Does the caregiver know what to watch out for, what they can and can’t do?
    - How will you know what they’ve been doing online whilst you’ve been at work or whilst they’ve been at someone else’s home?

It is super important that we keep our fingers on the pulse and make sure we take the time out to do our due diligence on what our kids are doing online, especially as it has such a big impact on their overall mental and physical health.

  1. Have you had a conversation about what to do if… they feel unsafe, identify someone is an online groomer, what behaviours to watch out for etc?

    All our supervision and protection is worth nothing if we don’t give our kids the tools to help themselves identify dangerous and tricky situations online.

    This means, teaching out kids what to watch out for, how to identify online grooming and predatory behaviours and helping them come up with a plan of what to do if something happens online.

    - Have you talked about an ‘action’ plan for what they should do if someone asks them for ‘private’ pictures?
    - Have you discussed and shared how to block someone online?
    - Have you ensured your kids know that you are always available and that they can talk with you about anything?

  2.  How do you manage device usage at friends and relative’s houses?

    One consideration you’ll need to have been what is ok for when they are in someone else’s home and not in yours. What you think is appropriate and ok, can often be different in someone else’s home.

    - Does the caregiver they are spending time with have a difference of opinion in what they do online?
    - Are the other kids in the home (i.e., Friends, cousins etc.) allowed other apps/games that your children is or isn’t?
    - Have you had a discussion with the caregiver about device safety and how they manage it?

    Device safety can be very different in different homes and families. It really is important to discuss it with the holiday carer before they spend time in their homes.

These are just some of the basic things to consider for your family’s online safety during the school holidays, however, it really is a personal choice as to what is or isn’t appropriate for your child/ren or teens. The biggest thing I want you to take away from this blog is: -

‘Having a conversation and spending time considering these questions, is better than NOT having the conversation or considering the potential risks’

Although physically our kids might be safe at home on their device, their emotional and psychological well-being and safety could very well be at risk. Prevention is always better than the cure!  

Check out my other blogs for further information on online safety tips and advice or grab a copy of my book for more in-depth information and advice, available on both Amazon and Audible.

Operation KidSafe – a detective’s guide to child abuse prevention