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Health & Safety: Safe Internet use for Preschoolers

The Internet can entertain, educate and occupy your pre-schooler. But your child can come across dangerous people or inappropriate content online. With some practical internet safety precautions, you can minimise the risks for your child.

Internet safety risks for pre-schoolers

There are three main kinds of Internet safety risks for children:

  • Content risks: these risks include content that children might find upsetting, disgusting or otherwise uncomfortable.
  • Contact risks: these risks include children coming into contact with people they don’t know. For example, a child might use a communication app and talk to a stranger.
  • Conduct risks: these risks include children acting in ways that might hurt others. For example, accidentally making in-app purchases is another conduct risk.

Protecting your child from Internet safety risks: tips

You play a key role in reducing the risks that your child is exposed to on the Internet. There are many practical things you can do to help keep your pre-schooler safe while she’s online.
Here are some ideas:

  • Use the Internet with your child or make sure you’re close by and aware of what your child is doing while he’s online. This way you can act quickly if your child is concerned or upset by something he’s seen.
  • Create a family media plan. Your plan could cover things like screen-free areas in your house, internet safety rules like not giving out personal information, and the programs, games and apps that are OK for your child to use.
  • Use child-friendly search engines like Kiddle, or content providers like KIDOZ, ABC Kids or YouTube Kids.
  • Check that games, websites and TV programs are appropriate for your child. For example, you can look at reviews on Common Sense Media.
  • Make sure older siblings follow your Internet safety rules when they go online with your pre-schooler. Rules might include watching only age-appropriate programs.
  • Set up a folder with bookmarks for your child’s favourite apps or websites so that she can easily find them.
  • Check privacy settings, use parental controls, block in-app purchases, disable one-click payment options on your devices, and find out how to make complaints about offensive content.

Teaching safe and responsible online behaviour

You can help your child learn how to use the Internet safely, responsibly and enjoyably. If you teach your child how to manage Internet safety risks and worrying experiences for himself, he’ll build digital resilience. This is the ability to deal with and respond positively to any risks he encounters online.
Here are some ideas:

  • Be a good role model.Your child learns from you. This means you can model safe and healthy Internet use by using the Internet in the way you want your child to use it.
  • Explain to your child that there’s good and bad content on the Internet, including content that isn’t true. Encourage your child to talk to you if she sees something upsetting, scary or worrying.
  • Spend time online with your child.Get him to show you websites that are fun or interesting, ask him to show you how to play the app or game that he’s playing, or talk about the videos he’s watching.
  • Explain to your child about in-app purchasesand pop-up advertisements.

It’s also a good idea to find out how grandparents and other people in your child’s life use the Internet and try to agree on a shared approach. It’s OK if your rules are different from those of other families. If you’ve thought them through and you’re happy with the way they’re working, you’re helping keep your child safe online.

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