TECH: The 10 commandments of cyber security

10 July 2017
Reading time4 minutes

The internet is a great place for learning, and as we start to need it more and more in our everyday lives, being able navigate it is an irreplaceable skill for children.

That said, it can also be a bit scary for a parent, and dangerous for a child who hasn’t been taught the basics of cyber security. Teaching your child just a few simple rules has the same effect as teaching them road safety; they’ll be more responsible and less willing to take a risk once they know the dangers inherent within.

1. No personal info. Ever.

One of the most important things that you should instill in your child is that there is no reason for anybody to require their personal info. On the off-chance that it’s a legitimate request (such as a classmate wanting some details), tell them not to say anything in a ‘public’ setting such as a forum.

This is one of the most well-known and taught rules of the web. In fact, 54% of surveyed Australian parents believe it is extremely important to never send personal details, while a further 25% believe it is very important.

If they are ever contacted by anybody asking for personal information, they should immediately come to you and report it.

2. Supervise first

Until your child has their bearings on the digital world, it’s better not to risk them getting too far in quickly. When first using a computer, supervise their initial activities; give them some freedom, but let them know that over time, once they’ve developed more skills and gotten a bit older, you’ll allow them to browse unsupervised.

3. Install a blocker

If you’re concerned that your child might be viewing things that are inappropriate for their age, you can get a handful of block tools.

Just know that children can be crafty - there are ways around most blockers if you’re committed enough. At the end of the day, a blocker won’t replace sitting down and talking your child about what is and isn’t appropriate. Speaking of which…

4. Speak in values

Instill in your children a good sense of what is and isn’t appropriate viewing. Most children will know the difference, but make sure they understand precisely what you consider good or bad in the household.

5. Structure time

Divide time up into leisure, work, and playtime like you would any other activity. Give your child specific times they can use the computer (say, an hour a night) that has a definite start and end.

This will teach your child responsibility and time management. On top of this, if you make sure that they do their chores before their hour begins, you’ll be amazed at how fast those chores get done!

6. You’re the first port of call

Teach your child to come to you the second anything goes wrong, just like they would in a real life situation. If something’s making them uncomfortable, if there’s something going wrong with the PC itself, or any other issue, you should be nearby and ready to jump in to help them out.

7. Be involved

Take an active interest in what your child does on the internet, and they’ll be more likely to include you in what they’re doing, and remain doing that instead of wandering off into places you might not want them in.

If they like games, see if there are any you can play together (turn based games are great for this). Even better, check if there are any learning games! The more interest you share, the more they’ll understand that the internet is a positive place, and that sharing things with you can help them have even more fun.

8. Vet social media stuff

One of the hardest things to police as a parent is social media, such as Instagram and Snapchat. It’s hard to find out exactly what’s going on without invading your child’s privacy, so instead, ask for definite rules to be followed on social media.

For example:

  • Don’t post pictures of yourself in your school uniform

  • Don’t talk to friends of friends, stick to talking to people that you and your parents know

  • If somebody tries to add you, make sure you know them from school and that your parents know them

  • Think about what you’re posting before you post it

9. Keep the computer open

In a similar fashion to initial supervision, don’t keep the computer locked up in a room by itself. Keeping it in the open keeps activities communal, and makes sure nobody’s going places they shouldn’t be.

10. Fact check!

Finally, it’s important to make your child understand that reading a thing on the internet doesn’t make it fact. Things written online are made by people, not written from above.

Children should learn early to take everything they read with a grain of salt, and make sure that what it’s saying coincides with your own values.


Written by

Gwen Mackey

Gwen Mackey is passionate about learning development, technology and family dynamics. A full-time mum of 4, Gwen uses her writing to pass on her knowledge with other parents to help guide them through the sometimes turbulent, but always rewarding life of family.

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