Informed, web-savvy parents working in partnership with schools offer the best protection for keeping students safe online, believes Vanessa Gálvez, Psychiatrist at Colegio Pumahue Curauma in Chile.

The internet is a hugely valuable tool for learning and social interaction, yet it is important that both parents and schools are involved in a child’s early education on appropriate use of the web to ensure they remain safe online.

The right time to introduce a young child to the internet is ideally when parents have the availability and knowledge to educate their child on its correct use and the risks of inappropriate use, i.e. the possible implications of publicly sharing personal data. Parents could ask themselves: “How much do I know of the way in which children use social networks today? What sites are they most likely to visit and what is the content of these sites?”

Moving forward, just as parents would supervise their 6-year-old child in the playground to see what they are doing and who they are communicating with, so too should they supervise their child on the internet at home to see what they are doing and who they are interacting with.

Knowing the websites they visit, the social platforms they use, the content they share and the games they play will allow parents to protect their child on the web. This knowledge can be achieved by keeping watch on your child when they are using personal devices and opening dialogue about their intentions and activities.

The second most important way to support a child’s safe use of the internet is for schools and parents to establish an alliance. Schools can support parents by creating opportunities for open dialogue where teachers can discuss with parents what is happening with the phenomenon of social networks and help them stay abreast of the popular, ‘trending’ content on the internet.

If parents and schools work together in this way, the greatest beneficiaries will be the students and their learning.