Friday 24 April 2020

Keeping up with my kids as they spend more time online during the lockdown

Girl online on a tablet in a garden

With more families spending time at home, kids and families are finding more to do online. There has been a boost in Zoom and Tiktok to keep in touch with each other and a whole host of new idea such as Esports on Twitch to replace the real sports that just can't take place.  We've loved using some of these.  But being online for my little girl and my older kids with additional needs poses challenges.

Generally, being on the internet is something my kids feel safe with, it's their time and they are in control of what they are doing.  This makes them feel comforted when everything else is a bit up in the air.  Formula One being on Twitch was a bit of normality for my 11 years old autistic son.   So how do I try to keep them safe in this ever expanding online world?

1. I get involved  
Childnet says the first simple way and effective way to get involved with kids and their online life is by talking to them about it. Even though one of my kids is pre-verbal, I can still support him and my other kids by understanding what they do.

Questions I try to ask them or try to discover:

  • What do you like about being on that (website or app)?
  • Which websites, apps and games do you think are okay to use?
  • What sites do you go to a lot?
  • What don’t you like?
  • How do you stay safe online?

As they get older or get their own accounts I could ask them about their privacy settings, blocking or reporting.

2. I am available for questions
I'm not afraid to talk to them about what they are doing, and they are used to this so are happy to talk to me about it.  Jane has recently asked me if it's OK to watch Christmas lego builds on Youtube.  Sounds like a crazy question, but in our home mentioning Christmas out of season can be a bit of catastrophe so I loved her thoughts about this.  But as they get older it could be things like:

  • What images and videos to watch (or share as they get their own accounts)
  • How to not share their details such as their names, year of birth or even their school in things like gamer tags, social media handles or with anything that comments (our kids don't have any social media accounts so they can't comment on these)
  • Not becoming friends with anyone they don’t know in real life
  • Telling an adult if ever anything worries or upsets them

Again as they get older or develop their own accounts, I can help with privacy settings and how to block things they don’t want to see

3. I, and we practice critical thinking
Along with fake news there is lots of other things online that can be confusing. I remember my eldest once found himself on a site that said the world would end in 2020 and I so we went through the steps with him about what he read.  For internet sites and social media I try to help or support my kids to:

  • Check the source of the information and consider who originally shared the item
  • Compare the information with what they already know
  • Check the information is up to date
  • Check other sources

There are so many aspects to being online, here is some general information on social media including youtube, and online gaming.

Social media

Social networking sites and apps such as Facebook and Instagram are very popular with kids and most of them have a minimum age of 13 years old with different safety options. But kids can be at risk of viewing inappropriate material, oversharing information or having unwanted contact.

Children and young people should be supported to ask themselves the following types of questions about their online activity.

  • Do I know how to block someone if I want to?
  • Who can look at what I post – now and in the future?
  • Who can look at my profile?
  • Is my account private?
  • Do I have privacy settings in place?
  • How do I delete things I put online?
  • How might what I share make others feel?
  • What should I do if something worries me online?
  • Do I know how to be a good friend online and support others?

There are so many different sites but here are some guides to some of the post popular social sites and apps:

Parental Controls for Social Media Sites and Apps - Internet Matters
Social Media Advice Hub - Internet Matters
Parent's guide to parental controls - Common Sense Media

Site Specific
Parental Controls for Facebook - Internet Matters 
Privacy Settings for Houseparty - Internet Matters
Parent's guide to Instagram - Common Sense Media 
Parent's guide to TikTok - Common Sense Media
Parent's guide to Youtube - Common Sense Media
Parent's guide to YouTube Kids - Common Sense Media 
Parent's guide to Zoom - Common Sense Media


Gaming both on and offline is very popular with many children with and without SEND. They can be easy to get and played on lots of different devices and consoles. Games have different PEGI ratings but what is appropriate for one child won’t be for another. Some of the concerns for many games is that kids will view or hear inappropriate content, connect with people they don’t know or overshare their personal information.

Parents and kids can read game reviews to understand what the risks might be with a game. Common Sense Media suggests following their SMART rules.

Safe – Keep safe by not giving out personal information when playing online such your name, age, where you live or go to school
Meeting - If anyone asks to meet up then tell an adult immediately
Accepting - Don’t accept gaming requests or links from people you don’t know
Reliable - Only speak to friends and family
Tell - If you are worried then tell a trusted adult

Further information for specific consoles and sites are available here:
Parental Controls for Gaming Consoles - Internet Matters 
Online Gaming Advice - Internet Matters
Parent's guide to Twitch - Common Sense Media
Parent's guide to ESports - Common Sense Media


  1. You can also find games for your kid that have parental control options. They seem to be very popular.

  2. Great post!! We get a little lax at times like this but we still need to make sure we're on top of it as best we can! #KCACOLS

  3. All very important ideas. I have our computer set up in the living room so that my daughter knows that I'm always within earshot and able to look over her shoulder whenever I choose to. She's also young enough that I can talk to her a lot about these sorts of things with a minimun of eye rolls #KCACOLS

  4. Such a great and positive post.
    We started talking about online safety at a pretty young age and we encourage critical thinking.
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time.


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