HACKED OFF: How to keep your kids safe online

USING the internet can be child's play.   

My five-year-old is a regular user of our family tablet.   

She knows the password. She knows how to update applications.   

She even knows how to pretend that she wasn't doing what she shouldn't have been doing. In fact, she did her first finger painting on a tablet.   

Yes, her internet innocence has gone. She will never know what life is like without the internet.   

But she is too young to fully appreciate the dangers.   

Too young to know what https means, phishing domains and malware.   

This is a conundrum for parents. Kids are growing up with devices where their appreciation of games and activities online predates their comprehension of the dangers that such environments pose.   

The question for a lot of parents is when and how to introduce these important lessons.   

It's difficult because life can get in the way of having these conversations. The next thing we know, they've moved beyond the finger painting app to juggling their own multiple social media and email personas.   

There's a great service that exists to help families respond to online concerns involving children. It's called the Office of the eChildren's Safety Commissioner and it's just turned one.   

It has a great resource area for parents and carers that can help each of us teach our kids how to be safe online. But that's not all the office can do.   

It has a sting to its tail.  

Should you find that your kids are being cyber bullied, experiencing trolling, or even sexting, the office has a useful suite of legislative powers that it can bring to the table to respond.   

Its website, esafety.gov.au, has more detail on what it can and can't do.   

It's a little-known service, but such an important one as we find that our kids and their exposure and literacy of the online environment are growing by the day.  

With the myriad of government cyber awareness-raising and reporting websites such as moneysmart, staysmartonline, scamwatch, ACORN, and ThinkUKnow proliferating over the past decade, it's good to know that the eSafety website is there for parents and carers to lean on when things online get out of control.   

I dread the day one of my kids finds themself in a situation where they are on the receiving end of any online abuse. At least I know a bit about what their rights are and where to go. The Office of the eChildren's Safety Commissioner will be among my first stops.    

Dr David Lacey is IDCARE managing director and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast.  

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