The majority of people in New Zealand today have access to the internet from anywhere and we are increasingly using it for many of our day to day functions, including online shopping, organizing our life, tracking fitness, social connections; the list is endless. Social network sites are often described as the preferred platform for connecting with people. While this world of technology has many benefits the use of the internet also comes with a number of negative impacts. This article outlines a number of considerations required to keep people safe – especially our most vulnerable. For more information on internet safety see https://www.netsafe.org.nz/
Excessive use of the internet and ways to self care– Excessive use of the internet and technology in general has been linked with both physical, mental, relationship and spiritual concerns. These include inconsistent eating habits, malnutrition, weight gain/loss, occupational overuse syndrome, repetitive strain injury, dry eyes, headaches, increases in mental health concerns, increases in aggression , sleeping problems, irregular routines, addiction issues, hyper focus and , and unhealthy relationships (to name a few). The overall message here is that balance is essential! While there are benefits in using the internet and technology in general it is advised that screen time be limited to approximately 2 hours a day. Often this can not be avoided and in that case it is advised to take regular micro breaks (or teach your loved one to) including looking at distant objects for your eyes.
Cyberbullying – Cyber bullying is bullying that occurs on line. With access to a number of social network sites the risk of bullying to seep into the homes of vulnerable children is real. Teaching young people what cyberbullying is, what is acceptable communication and what isn’t, how to keep themselves safe and what to do if someone does bully them is very important. There are tools on most sites to report and block unwanted communication. Educating people what to do in this situation is key. This may include talking to an adult they really trust, not replying, reporting and blocking the person, or if it is very serious screenshotting the content and informing the police.
Online relationships/dating/sexting. In todays technological age the internet is utilised increasingly as a way to meet new people. While this has its benefits it is also necessary to understand ways to keep yourself and loved ones safe. This includes the need to educate individuals to be careful what information they give to people and make sure that it does not include personal information such as where you live. Although, the likelihood of sending a rude or nude picture is quite small, it is a important to include this issue when discussing risks of sharing personal information, including pictures and sexual images.
Key safety information when using the internet
- Passwords and security questions details – don’t give these out to people (even friends or boyfriends/girlfriends). Be careful of people asking for questions like mother’s maiden name, previous schools, addresses or pet’s name (or any other common security question).
- Personal details – Teach individuals to protect their information and to not share personal details such as address, phone number, birthdate, login details, credit card details, drivers license numbers .
- Privacy settings – Facebook, only give username out for things like snapchat, Instagram, private pages etc. Make sure your privacy settings do not allow others to see you photos, personal details, addresses, phone numbers and location.
- Safe searches – Teach individuals the keys to safe searches. pornography is very accessible so having some sort of software on your computer to prevent these images and videos being searched may be useful.
- Ensuring safety – Make a safety plan: including what the individual knows already, informing them that you will support them no matter what, discuss how they can get help and who they can reach out to, discuss ways to report or remove harmful content, have emergency contact details on hand. For ideas on how to make a safety plan visit http://www.netsafe.org.nz/make-a-plan/
Resources and sources of information:
- Guide for online safety for parents – https://www.netsafe.org.nz/online-safety-for-parents/
- Visually friendly and simply communicated guidelines – https://www.netsafe.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2018-Netsafe-Staying-Safe-Online-Guide-1.pdf
- Young disabled people give their tips about using the internet to other young people – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfa52a2ppHs