To parents, the list of online dangers from new apps, games and platforms appears endless – and it probably is. Add to it the corresponding list of safety skills we want to convey to our kids and the endeavour of helping them navigate the online world safely seems unsurmountable – it is not.
The best way to equip the next generation with lifelong online safety skills is to keep yourself informed of the most recent developments relevant to your children’s age group and to keep an ongoing conversation with them.
However, there will be moments where you will need to assess a new situation quickly without necessarily having time to pause and read an article on the issue you are facing.
In these situations, a good reflex is to go back to the basics and to the 3 C’s. The 3 C’s is the way researchers commonly categorise online risks: Content, Contact and Conduct.
How can the 3 C’s help me or my child?
These categories are helpful as you can use them as a screening tool to assess the risks of a specific situation.
Content: Can my child see or hear any inappropriate content? This includes violence, pornography, use of illicit substances, inappropriate behaviour or promoting unhealthy behaviours.
Contact: Who can contact my child? Can anyone, including strangers, contact my child? If so, how (public posts and/or private messages)? Obviously, contacts will broaden the risk of inappropriate content and conduct.
Conduct: Can my child, despite their young age, behave in a way that is inappropriate or contributing to risky content or contact? This includes bullying, sharing information or images without consent, and illegal downloading of content.
Covering the 3 C’s will help you screen the app, game or platform you are dealing with in a thorough way, probably more thoroughly than you would have otherwise done it, looking a little deeper into the various privacy settings and filters.
The 3 C’s also help anticipate how and when the online risks widen as children become more autonomous with their reading and writing skills. For younger children who cannot read or write, the online risks are mostly limited to content risks of videos or photos as they cannot read a comment, reply to a message or search any terms. As soon as children can type into a search engine their favourite toilet talks terms, send photos and texts, or play online games, things can quickly become very different.
For tweens and teens, you can use the 3 C’s as a safety compass, a practical way to recapitulate what they would have already learnt about online safety. For tweens and younger teens, you can choose to summarise each of the 3 C’s with a simple corresponding question:
Content: What could I see or hear – anything uncomfortable?
Contact: Who can contact me – could a stranger contact me?
Conduct: Can I be proud of my conduct – think of what I do online?
Also, look out for the 4th C - commercialism - which appeared more recently, and covers the hidden costs in apps, games and websites. If you think your tween/teen can easily retain the 4 C’s then include commercialism and make it 4 C’s! If this makes the list too long, keep it at 3 and you can use commercialism as an example of content they should not be dealing with without your permission.
For further reading, we have included below examples of sources using this classification: