It's that time of year again, when families throughout the country open their doors to welcome in teenage students from Spain, Italy, France and further afield. Having an international student in your home during the summer can be a great experience for everyone.
It's a a nice cultural exchange, families can make international friends for life and the added income over the summer doesn't go amiss either. Homestay families are give guidelines about accommodation, curfews and packed lunches, but information on how to regulate internet access is usually vague at best.
Parents regularly tell us that they're not sure how much online time international students should have or whether they should be regulating what students look at.
"The school told us to make sure that the student had some internet access, but we're not sure how much" and "We had one student who lifted his head from his smartphone game for about 10 minutes a day!" are just some of the comments from international student hosts BeSecureOnline chatted to.
So how do you figure out how involved or prescriptive you should be when hosting a young person from abroad, in your family home? Do you need parental internet software? Should you know where the student's phone is? Do you set rules about screentime? We've a few tips along the way.
Having someone else's child or teenager in your home is a big responsibility. Hosts agree rules with summer schools on all sorts of areas, but it can be hard to know what to do in relation to internet access, smartphone screen time or online gaming. It needn't be.
If you agree the rules at the start, it can make for an easier life for everyone in the home. It can also make sure that the international student in your house get involved in family time and doesn't feel left out.
Find out if they have set guidelines for internet use. Often they suggest "reasonable" access. If it's up to you to determine, you're going to have to let the student know early on, what the rules are.
Talking to them at the outset can solve problems later on. If at all possible, let parents know what the rules are or agree them through the school, beforehand or as soon as the student arrives.
It's important that your kids and the international student have the same rules when it comes to online time. It's your home, so it's OK to set rules. Just make sure that they are equal for everyone.
Having a "no phones" at the dinner table or during set family times rule, is a good way to get time to interact with a young person who is far away from home. Chatting to them helps their English and also gives time for your family to interact with their guest and make them feel more at home.
If your kids have to leave their phones downstairs at night, make sure this rule is kept for everyone.
Often they need plenty of time to chat to parents at home. Make sure they get this. Think about agreeing a time every night that students can Skype or video call home, if they need to.
International students will want to use the family wifi to save on phone data. If you have rules in your home about screen time, stick to them.
If you only allow internet access for a certain length of time each evening, let the student know early on. If you make them feel welcome and a part of the family, they won't feel the need to be online as much.
Some schools insist that you install internet control software. Others don't. Our advice is to make sure you have something like iKydz in your home. With iKydz you can limit internet access at certain times and importantly, block access to inappropriate sites or web content.
This is especially important for younger students. Some families have pre-teens staying with them, so it's vital to make sure they are protected online, when they are in your home.
F-Secure Safe internet security, gives you the opportunity to protect your guest's phone when they are out and about too, not just when they are at home.
It lets you block content that is dangerous or unsuitable for younger eyes and it can be applied to numerous devices. If you are thinking about adding your international guest's phone to your list of devices on F-Secure Safe, make sure you have permission to do so.
A lot of parents will be quite happy to know that you're helping to protect their child online, when they are out and about and not just when they are in your house. Find out if this is what they want. If it isn't, you can still regulate internet use in your home, on your wifi network.
If you do agree with the school or parents, that you will add internet security to a child's phone when they are out and about, agree all the aspects. You can track a phone and/or remotely lock a phone if it's stolen, using F-Secure Safe, but check first that this is OK.
One of the handy things about tracking a phone is that, if the international student gets lost, they can contact you and you can see where they are, if they need your help to navigate home. If you let them know that you will only track the phone in case of emergencies or if they are lost, it can work. Building up trust is key here.
Having an international student stay in your house can be a great experience for all the family. Everyone likes to think that, if their child was staying with a family in a foreign country, that they'd be welcomed and looked after.
Parents often worry about setting guidelines around internet use and screen time for young guests. They needn't. All you need to do is make sure everyone knows the rules and that you have online controls in place. Then you can all enjoy the summer!
If you'd like to know more about F-Secure Safe, check out our products page.