Cyber safety: how to keep your kids safe online

It’s an undeniable fact that our world is changing; as our digital evolution gains speed, our lives as we knew them 20 years ago are no more. For many, making comparisons between old and new is a daily occurrence and in recognising the differences between now and then, an unsettling feeling can often ensue. This is particularly the case with parenting. Our children don’t have the luxury of knowing what life once was, they only know what ‘is’, and for the most part it’s a digital world.

Change is scary.

it’s in our nature to be wary of it. But embracing and adapting is the only way to move forward to live happy and prosperous lives in the now. Juxtaposed with the positives of the way technology is improving our lives though, are the dangers our new world poses. As with life 20 years ago, teaching our children how to navigate the world and stay safe is still an integral part of parenting. But, it’s how and what we teach that may have changed slightly.

We, in essence, learn how to raise (or not raise) our children from our own parents and first-hand experience, we instinctively recite instructions that our parents recited to us. “Don’t touch, that’s hot”, “Don’t talk to strangers”, “Don’t drink at the party”. But when we need to discuss dangers that were not present when we were young, where do we start?

The broad term “cyber safety” encompasses a myriad of challenges that present themselves as a result of technology. Staying safe on social media is just one of those challenges. When it comes to our children, their want to be popular, their need to be in the loop and their desire to connect with peers are not new traits. However, their outlet for these needs are. Social media provides a platform for young people to have all their needs met, but on a larger scale than ever before. But the anonymity, ease of access and privacy from parents’ eyes has also given way to a string of unhealthy habits. Hidden dangers and even mental health issues are other issues that are difficult for parents to identify.

We take a look at the most popular social media platforms and their ugly sides to give you an insight into how you can keep your kids safe online.


What is it: An app designed for sharing quick snaps or videos which are deleted automatically within 10 seconds. Story features allow users to share videos which can be viewed for 24 hours.

What are the dangers: Snapchat provides a false sense of security for users who think their content will only last a short time. In reality, it can last a lifetime; ‘snaps’ can easily be saved by those who view them. Furthermore, the app’s functionality allows users to easily edit images. This makes it a breeding-ground for cyber bullies who can edit and caption images in an unpleasant way.


What is it: A photo sharing app in which users create a profile of images from their life. Users can both ‘be followed’ and ‘follow’ others; more followers mean more eyes on your photos. In fact, it’s a goal of users to build their following.

What are the dangers: Aside from the fact that users have access to millions of photos (some of which are inappropriate for young eyes) kids can be contacted by strangers and bullies. The main reason that this app is dangerous for teens is the unrealistic portrayal of the lives of their peers. It also has an effect on self-confidence, self-worth and self-belief. With teens constantly being presented with images of their favourite celebrities, friends and acquaintances (which usually show them doing something amazing or have been edited to make them look prettier or skinner), this app is renowned for giving teens (and many adults), a feeling of inadequacy which can lead to anxiety or even depression.


What is it: An anonymous messaging app where users can ‘provide feedback’ on friends and colleagues. It links to users’ Snapchat accounts.

What are the dangers: Essentially, this app is a bully’s playground. They can anonymously send messages to their peers which are often cruel or hurtful to the recipient. In light of the recent death of Amy “Dolly” Everett who took her life after being bullied online, this app has been dropped from both the App Store and Google Play store. But, there are still a range of apps that do the same thing that may become as popular as this app.

Aside from the specific issues of the individual platforms, no matter what social media platform your children use, there are always certain dangers that can be present. Usually, the opportunity for bullying, the ease of being contacted by unsavoury characters and an addiction to the dopamine hit that comes with being ‘liked’ or ‘followed’ are the main culprits across the board. Knowing how to deal with the basics, at least, is extremely important.

What else?

There are a number of other apps that have gained popularity over the years that are worth looking into to make sure your child is using them in a safe and appropriate manner.

What can parents do?

Parenting can be a difficult feat at the best of times, which is only made more challenging with the rise of social media. Teenagers’ ability to keep things from their parents and make questionable decisions are heightened. All parents can do is be aware of the dangers, discuss issues with their children, and equip children with the tools they need to deal with their lives on social media.

Talk to your kids about the danger.

Discuss online stranger danger and what they should do if they receive unsolicited messages from people they don’t know.

Discourage online relationships.

Some children may seek to talk to strangers online. Discuss the dangers of doing this and how people are not always who they say they are.

Talk about gratification.

Being ‘liked’ online is not real life. Talk to your children about the fact that they should not take things to heart should they receive fewer likes than their peers, and how they shouldn’t go out of their way to do things just to be ‘liked’.

Talk about bullying.

Many children keep bullying quiet and suffer in silence, which makes it nearly impossible for parents to identify if something is awry. Regardless of whether you think this is happening or not, discuss the dangers of online bullying with your children. Encourage them to communicate with you if they are feeling attacked and give them some tips on what to do if this is happening to them.

Check privacy settings on all apps.

As a rule, you should have a good look at all apps that are downloaded onto your child’s device. Even some games have an in-built messaging feature.

Remove phones from bedrooms.

This may be a harsh measure, but a rule of ‘no phones in the bedroom’ gives your child a break from the dangers that their phone may hold.

To help you more easily navigate the world of social media and keep your kids safe online, we’ve teamed up with Horizons 21 who are offering Pakmag readers the change to win a Cyber Safety Course.

Horizons 21 redefine social media and technology for you. They equip you with the basic knowledge to start a meaningful conversation with your kids. For more information about courses visit

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