Online safety is a family matter

The devices we use every day open the door for families to explore, learn and play together online, but they can also bring a new set of worries for parents and caregivers. 

Cyberbullying, sexting, scams and the like may harm children. Some have even resorted to self-harm. If we are going to stop this from happening, raising awareness and educating children, parents and teachers about how to be safe online is critical. 

For parents, setting digital ground rules is important, but it can be tricky to maintain those rules, because parents are busy. Some parents also feel at a technological disadvantage because their technical know-how is limited. Others think that tools to help keep their children safe online are expensive and difficult to manage. 

A survey Google conducted in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria showed that the top online safety concerns for parents and teachers are privacy and security, scams and sharing of personal information. Parents believed their children should be taught about online safety by the age of nine, but were unsure about how to go about it.

Google has a number of programmes that facilitate learning about online safety for children, such as Web Rangers and Be Internet Awesome. Apps such as Family Link and our set of Digital Wellbeing tools can also help parents.

These apps and tool sets also build healthy ways of using technology. For example, the Family Link app gives parents a way to create and supervise Google accounts for their children, manage the content they see online, the amount of time spent on their devices and extend that supervision into their teenager’s Google account. 

But what should children be interacting with online, in an ideal world? To solve that problem, there are recommendations for teachers: a collection of educational Google Play apps. And parents can share ideas with Google.

Parents can set app-specific time limits to help children make better choices about how they’re spending time on their device. But sometimes children need a few more minutes to finish up what they’re doing on their devices. So parents can give them bonus screen time directly from their own device.

The Digital Wellbeing tools have helped parents take better control of their own phone usage too. 

Focus mode is designed to help you focus without distraction. You can select the apps you find distracting and silence them. 

Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda is the public policy and government relations manager, Africa at Google

Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda
Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda is the public policy and government relations manager, Africa, at Google. He represents Google externally with government, regulators and other stakeholders as well as managing Google's regional public policy strategy and campaigns to advance tech policy positions that benefit Google users and an open internet generally
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