The Flow Foundation is celebrating child month with its internet safety education fora that empower parents to be more vigilant while teaching their children how to protect themselves.
The initiative is a partnership with the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), which reinforces good parenting habits and offers support such as counselling and consultation.
Dubbed ‘Internet SMART Parenting’, the focus is on educating and empowering parents to be the first line of defense against potentially harmful internet practices and content.
Preteens are among the most vulnerable groups to online threats given their innocence and underdeveloped ability to discern appropriate online content and conduct. By promoting vigilant parenting, the objective is to help protect children while promoting smart online behaviour. The first of four sessions was held at the Norman Gardens Primary School in Kingston on May 12 where the parents were engaged around online parenting tips, best practices for children and immediate actions to take if their privacy or safety has been compromised online.
The session was a great exchange between the parents, school administrators, the CPFSA and Flow as everyone acknowledged the collective effort needed to better safeguard our children from online harm.
Keresha Brown, a parent of a 10-year-old at Norman Gardens Primary, said she found the information interesting and useful.
“One of the most important things that stood out for me was to find more balance with playing outside and sitting in front of the phone for too long. It is something I will pay closer attention to going forward,” said Brown.
LeVaughn Flynn, public relations manager at Flow, said this initiative is an extension of the company’s commitment to digital inclusivity. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted schooling for thousands of children, Flow responded with free internet service upgrades and distributed hundreds of tablets to schools across the island to support online learning.
According to Flynn, increased access to and reliance on the internet must be supported by safety protocols.
“As the leading internet provider in the island, it’s part of our responsibility to help protect the public from online harm. Internet safety is as important as personal safety because so much of our lives is accessible via the internet,” Flynn stated.
“Our children are among the most vulnerable groups to online threats and the parents play an important role in educating and guiding their children on how to safely navigate the web. In order for this to happen, emphasis must be placed on making the parents aware of their role and providing them with a guideline,” he added.
The CPFSA, in its role as leader in the child protection system and supporter of strong families, provided positive parenting tips and pledged its commitment to in-need families.
Rosalee Gage-Grey, CEO of the CPFSA, noted that positive parenting plays a significant role in a child’s development and better prepares them for challenges in the real world and online.
“Flow has been one of our longstanding partners and is the service provider of the Agency’s 211 Child Abuse Reporting Hotline. We were very happy to work together again, this time to equip parents with skills for better and internet-smart parenting,” Gage-Grey said.
“This topic is indeed timely as children are spending more time online, many times without supervision. We have also seen increased instances of children meeting up with persons they have met online without their parents’ permission, and being exposed to serious risk. It is therefore important that we arm our parents with the information to safeguard their children, and to have informed conversations about their safety.”
The Internet SMART Parenting Forum will make its next stop at the Runaway Bay All-Age School on May 18, followed by Irwin Primary School on May 26 and Mineral Heights Primary on May 30.