#teensexting | #sexting | Psychotherapist speaks out about online safety

As more and more children are accessing the internet from a young age, psychotherapist Noel McDermott looks at how parents can help keep their children safe in a digital world.

Risk of children accessing the internet include:

psychotherapist Noel McDermott

*exposure to inappropriate adult sexual or violent content

*encouragement through peer pressure to engage in risky behaviour

*exposure to predatory behaviours of adults

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How can parents keep their children safe?

Setting online boundaries

Advise children against talking to strangers and meeting up with them especially alone. If your kids feel uncomfortable about something that happens online, they should talk to a trusted adult.

Open parental attitudes to gaming

Additionally, if you have an open attitude to their gaming and other online behaviours, they are more likely to talk to you about their activities and raise concerns. Take the time to find out what your children are doing online and try to get inside their heads.

Exposure to explicit content

Ensure your children aren’t being exposed to online violence and explicit images as it can be psychologically damaging.

As a parent it is vital that you model good behaviour around these issues: talk openly about sex, relationships, explicit images, consent and sexting.

Teach children about the impacts online bulling can have on others or if they are victim of bullying encourage them to talk about it and support them.

Noel, who has over 25 years’ experience in health, social care said: “Kids need to learn about trolling and online bullying behaviours and how to withdraw to safety, blocking people for example. It’s vital that victims feel able to ask for help and it’s also vital that folk caught up in the moment as bystanders who then realise what they witnessed was wrong feel able to come forward to apologise and repair. We need to proactively teach our kids how to have ‘manners’ online in the same way we do in all their relationships, asking them if their behaviours are kinds etc and proactively intervening if we see aggression for example and not letting it go because it doesn’t involve someone punching someone else. It is not fun and nor is it harmless’”.

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