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Monitoring internet usage and online conduct

Laptop typing

From the Director of Wellbeing, Matthew Porter

Internet addiction, cyber safety and cyber responsibility. Where do we begin the conversation and where do we draw the line?

Over recent years the rate of innovation, expansion and development in IT connectivity and accessibility has progressed at an alarming rate. So much so, that today’s children know how to click, scroll and navigate their way through tablets, smartphones and devices almost as soon as they can walk and talk. Connecting and communicating online has become the norm in terms of how children and adolescents interact with one another and the world around them.

On School.TV Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says “giving a smartphone to an 11 year old can be akin to handing them a loaded gun. Young people don’t have the maturity to use their digital devices responsibly.” So how do we know that our children are being safe and sensible when they are deep in cyber space?

As with most things moderation is the key. The National Physical Activity Guidelines suggest limiting screen time to 2 hours a day. This may be near impossible when we spend our whole day at work or school hunched over laptops. For many of us the very first thing we do when we make up in the morning and the last thing we do at night is check social media, in some cases even before we acknowledge the partner or loved one laying right beside us.

Today may be a good opportunity to reflect upon our own habits and how and when we access our devices and interact with social media. Modelling positive behaviours and responsible choices in how we embrace technology makes it so much easier to start a conversation or impose some reasonable boundaries on our sons’ online activities.

No phones at the dinner table, may be a good starting point. Absolutely no scrolling, tapping and clicking, whilst driving. Designating off line time for an hour before bed. It’s well documented that staring in to back lit devices delays the brains secretion of melatonin, the hormone in the brain which induces sleep. Taking these simple steps may help moderate internet use before it becomes problematic and may also add to the richness of face to face communication with our loved ones.

The recent release of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why raised all sorts of issues and discussions around young children accessing inappropriate TV shows, games and movies online without adult guidance. Rather than delve into each of the specific potential health and wellbeing consequences of social media dependence, online gambling, online pornography, sexting, cyber safety and cyber bullying in this article, I thought I would instead provide a few easy steps on how to keep our sons safe and how to open a conversation if you or they are concerned about their online activities.

Don’t over react: Curiosity, exploration and experimentation or all normal in developing personal identity in adolescence. It is only natural that boys will want to see what all the fuss is about if everyone is watching a particular show or accessing a sight, image, etc. If he comes to you, remain calm, he values your opinion and is unsure how to proceed on his own. If you stumble across online activity that concerns you by surprise, wait until a time when you are both calm and talk openly and honestly about what concerns you.

Put computers in a visible space or location within the house: Do not spy or check up on your son. You need to trust him to do the right thing, he needs to take responsibility for making sensible choices. However, having the laptop, device etc in a kitchen or family area makes it a more sociable and communicable part of everyday household interactions. He is far less likely to get distracted or stay from the straight and narrow.

Limit mobile device access in bedrooms or other secluded locations: This may be easier said than done, however, limits are the key, no mobile phone until after your homework and chores are done is a great starting point. A recharge station in the kitchen or other household location away from the bedroom will help limit temptation and will improve sleeping habits.

Wifi passwords shut off time: It may be appropriate or necessary to turn off your home wifi at a set time each evening. Some families choose to change their password or access code frequently. This can be a great “motivator” when negotiating the picking up of dirty clothes, taking out of rubbish bins, etc.

Be tech literate: in many households the scary reality is that our sons and daughters have a huge advantage in terms of their IT know how. Parental controls and software applications to monitor online activities only work if the parents are a step ahead of the game.

Discuss openly what to do and how to handle tricky situations: what would you do if you receive an inappropriate image of someone you suspect is underage. What would you do if someone asked you to do something online that you know is wrong. Who should you give you password to and when? How do you check a sight is secure before inputing credit card details, pay pal, etc?

Internet, gaming and social media dependence: encourage diverse relationships and social groups. Encourage a well balanced healthy active lifestyle. Promote recreational activities which aren’t online. Socialise in person, face to face, at school, through sport, family, local community, etc.  Rather than being online constantly seeing how many likes, friends and followers we have boys and young men need as many opportunities as possible to feel good about themselves in other ways

For more specific information on anything contained in this report please see the following link or feel free to get in touch.

Online bullying –

Internet addiction –

Online pornography –

13 reasons why –