Online safety at home

As parents, what do we need to consider?

Introduction: In the following clip, Stephen Balkham talks about three main online safety issues - Physical, psychological and reputational. As well as addressing these issues, this module will unpack what it means to respect and protect oneself, others and intellectual property.

Physical threats include those from online predators, stalkers or groomers (when someone befriends a child to lower defences for later abuse). This can result in a form of sexual abuse or worse. Your children need to know this can be a real danger - if too much private information (full name, address, activities) is shared online. However, to get things in perspective, this threat is less frequent than the other two issues shared on this page. In a letter to his parent community, one Principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in New Jersey, USA wrote,
"The threat to your son or daughter from online adult predators is insignificant compared to the damage that children at this age constantly and repeatedly do to one another through social networking sites or through text and picture messaging."

Other physical threats include addictive behaviours and possible lack of sleep. For more on protecting self and identity, go to Protecting self and others.

Some psychological issues and consequences are outlined below, more are explored throughout this module.

Cyber bullying
Cyber bullying is far more common that most people think and has real detrimental effects and consequences if neglected. As noted in Young people in the 21st Century, young people's views of the world are greatly influenced but their peers. "The need to be part of a group and to have the right friends can be overpowering. So overpowering, in fact, that students will bully others to impress and to try to make themselves look better. Most cyber problems are kid-to-kid problems, not problems with online predators. They are caused by kids, trying in the wrong ways, to be accepted." Putting other people down, hostile or insulting communication is often called flaming. "The thinking is if you put someone else down, you’ll look cool."

Generally the people being cyber bullied are being bullied in reality as well and their bullies are known to them. 10 percent of kids are bullied. 90 percent aren’t, so we do have a chance to be proactive and stop it before the percentage grows and becomes the norm. Sometime those being bullied don’t do anything, because they think the school can’t stop the bullying. Sometimes they are worried it might escalate, or that parents will take away their phones or computers so they would rather be bullied than risk losing their cellphones - which equates to access to friends.

Sexting is the terminology to explain the act of creating inappropriate material (sexually explicit messages, photos or video) and sharing it on. This is often in reference to material shared via cellphones. Imagine what happens when friendships turn sour with incriminating photos on the other person’s phone.

Questionable material
The Internet is a highway of information that can take you to many places, some of them not so nice and some of them unplanned. Questionable content includes sites that depicts offensive, abusive, hateful, threatening, degrading, pornographic, racist, violent, illegal or inappropriate material. For more on questionable material, go to

Reputations can be compromised when young people expose too much information online leaving a tainted ‘digital footprint’. This can impair their reputation and livelihood later on in life. Users can share information willingly or via a third-party without consent. For example, kids take their phones to parties, sometimes undesirable behaviours can be captured on camera. Someone takes a photo and puts it on Facebook but does not tag it, so the victim doesn’t know there are compromising photos of them on the net.

People’s email address can have a negative influence when applying for a job. For example, is unlikely to elicit a job interview. Prospective employers are searching via Google and through Facebook and fast finding to cull potential employees with a compromising digital footprint. Your reputation can very easily be compromised when the web doesn't distinguish between your private life and professional life. For more on managing any of these issues, go to


Some material has been adapted from Greg Gebhart's keynote @ Greg is an Australian educator who now works as a consultant on the use and implementation of new and emerging technologies. Greg’s specialist areas include the use of Web 2.0 technologies and internet safety for children.