Are you ready for Christmas?

Have you sent cards and greetings to family and friends around the world? Have you donned your Christmas jumper, sung your favourite carols and wrapped your presents for under your tree?

Have you familiarised yourself with the parental controls on the devices so sought-after by the children in your life?

This festive season, the ISPCC is helping parents and guardians protect their children online. With children and young people across the country hoping to receive gifts this week of the latest tablets, smartphones and games consoles, the ISPCC is issuing a timely reminder to parents to take steps to keep their children safe as they navigate the wealth of possibilities presented to them by their new devices.

The ISPCC, in partnership with Vodafone Ireland Foundation, has developed a six-step ‘how to’ guide to help parents keep children safer online.

The ‘BE CUTE’ recommendations, as developed in conjunction with a range of industry stakeholders, include:

1. Build trust with your child to understand their online activity
a. Install parental controls and passwords
b. Agree on a set of household rules for internet usage

2. Educate yourself and your child to the online world
a. Things change fast, by sharing knowledge and tips with your children (or them with you!) you can keep abreast of developments
b. Don’t share personal data online
c. Lead by example and remember to put the phone or device down

3. Communication is key – establish an open dialogue with your child
a. There is no better way than keeping the conversation with your child open
b. Try to understand the sites your child is visiting
c. Check the age ratings of the social media or online gaming platforms they are using at http://www.pegi.info/ie/

4. Utilise safety features already in place
a. Your broadband and mobile devices will have security and privacy settings you can set up at www.h2bsafetycentre.com.
b. Location services should be switched off on children’s phones

5. Technology – Embrace the benefits
a. The Internet presents great possibilities but if you do discover your child has visited inappropriate sites or has been bullied, try not to panic – this will keep the communication channels open

6. Eyes open – monitor for any changes
a. If your child is at risk online, warning signs may include:
i. They become withdrawn or moody and refuse to talk about their online activity
ii. They are exhausted – if your child has access to their device at night, they may not be regulating their activity

Full guidelines to help advise parents on safer internet use by children and young people, as launched earlier this year by the ISPCC and the Vodafone Ireland Foundation, can be accessed at www.vodafone.ie/foundation.

The ISPCC is highlighting to parents and guardians the positive impact the online world can have on the lives of young people, who most frequently use the internet for social networking, watching video clips and instant messaging. Parents and guardians are reminded that they can access the assistance of service providers and social networking companies to help them in their endeavours to ensure their children’s experiences online are both safe and positive.

ISPCC CEO Grainia Long said: “Children and young people across Ireland will be excited to receive gifts of tablets, smartphones, games consoles and other technological devices this Christmas Day. Many of these devices can connect to the internet and thus present an almost limitless range of possibilities.

“While we appreciate the very positive impact technology can have on the lives of young people, we also recognise the need to ensure this can happen in the safest and most supportive environment possible. The ISPCC has called and will continue to call for the introduction of a national strategy on children’s cyber safety to keep Ireland’s children safer online.

“This Christmas, we are asking parents and guardians to help protect their children online and to ‘BE CUTE’, think cyber safety and remember to use parental controls on devices.”

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