Following attendance at a conference for KiddyCharts a few month’s ago, I have put together a guide on ‘How to manage your child’s presence online.’ There are a number of key lessons about achieving success in this, but three over-arching themes tie everything together….
Three key themes:
- Understanding the technology
- Engaging with your child
- Educating your children, and yourself.
These factors are really essential in everyone’s life. I am afraid to say there is no actual way of stamping out some of the things that scare us the most about our kids contact in the online world:
- Online identity fraud,
However, we need to learn not to be too terrified about these aspects of modern life, but to embrace and learn about the technology around us, so we can educate our children in how to deal with the internet and all the wonders it brings in a positive way.
Understand the technology
Parents should/need to be taking an interest as soon as their little ones become entrusted with gadgets; more so if you are letting them ‘surf the net’ on their own. Going online is magical, however, if there are no parental controls in place anything can be seen or heard. Take time to learn/play with what your children want to use.
If you are unsure, there is nothing wrong with looking and trying to get familiar with what your children are taking an interest in. If you get stuck, Google and YouTube have amazing tips and hints to help with applications and their functions.
Here are some key tips to help you with setting up the technology environment within the home, and on your child’s mobile devices:
- Implement Parental Controls, where you can – from using age restrictions on your home WiFi network, to implementing technology, such as TeenSafe, which allows you to see what your kids are up to. This is a personal choice, as not all families are going to be happy with this level of control
- Research popular sites, so you know what your kids are doing. If you have never been on Snapchat – sign up and find out what it is all about!
- Make sure to follow the age guidelines for social media sites in particular – should your child even be signed up to it yet?
- Switch off GPS (Global Positioning Service), so that your children’s location can’t be seen by others that don’t know them
- For collaborative gaming consoles, e.g. MMO – Massively Multiplayer Online Game, X-Box Live, and Playstation Plus, make sure you have controls in place regarding whom your kids can play with, and that you have educated them about not playing with people that they don’t know
- Consider getting Privacy Apps to protect you and your family. AVG AntiVirus 2015 offer a free trial. These will protect your home from:
- Blocks Viruses, Spyware and Malware
- Prevents Spying & Data Theft
- Password-Protects Private Files
A parent recently told me:
“I have no time for Facebook.”
I can understand that Facebook is not for everyone, but the World has changed, we are linked into the networking world in most of our everyday lives, whether we like it or not. The children of today are very much the future; and that future is well and truly plugged in. This means that we have a responsibility to gain a basic understanding of some of the technology that are kids are using, so that we can help, and assist should problems arise. Or, at least, we must have a sufficient basic understanding, so that you don’t just stare blankly when your kids ask a question! ;-)
When adding an app to your device (smart phone, tablet or PC/Laptop) check the PEGI rating (Pan European Game Information). Apps usually ask for your permission to check data and view things from your devices; so do be aware of this too.
For example, this is a scenario I encountered when looking to download a game for my son:
“My 7 year son asked for the ‘Subway Surfers’; a cute little game that looks entertaining. The app is also ‘FREE’ As soon as I click my interest. I am told the following:
Please don’t think I am skeptical, but why on earth does this little game need access to my devices and app history? Why does it want access to the devices profile?
It wants to access my files, such as images, videos or audio, taking these even from the devices external storage such a SD cards. This app is basically asking for permission to access my life, it wants to know about me. Once it has accessed my life, what will it do with all the information it finds? Sell it on? Steal my identity? Send me junk?
I wouldn’t leave a personal file at my neighbour’s house for them to have a good snoop; so make sure to read the small print. You may be surprised at what you have added to your devices already. In the end, I did not add the app to his device. I would recommend looking very carefully at ‘Free’ apps.”
Of course, it may be that this app has legitimate reasons for accessing these parts of my phone. For example, there may be a part of the app where my child can save photos, which would need camera access, etc. However, it is always wise to be aware of what you are downloading and how it affects your mobile life.
Engaging and Educating your child
Here are a few ways parents can engage with their children. Remember, it is also about making our children feel happy to talk about their online presence with you too:
- Show an interest in what your children are doing,
- Start as soon as possible so everyone involved feels comfortable, and
- Make rules together – As children get older let them feel more responsible, relaxing some rules, give them more privacy.
Using anything on the internet is a minefield; from managing day to day files, to security, and surfing. These days many services require a good deal of personal information. Even to log-on, user profiles have to be set-up, and passwords created. Creating a password with your kids, is actually a great way to engage with each other though….
Hints of tips for creating passwords online for your kids:
- Do not use words. Take them and play about this them. So for example, ‘Topgear’ as a password would be bad, but ‘T0pG32R’ is much better
- Do not repeatedly use them, its a good idea to make new passwords for new services, rather than keeping the same ones across all your devices.
THE best way to engage with your kids about online behaviour is to create some basic rules together of how they can be safe online.
Six rules for staying safe online for YOUR kids; THE TRIPLE S SAFETY SCHEME!
Here are SIX key rules we have put together for you:
- Do not talk to strangers online,
- Do not befriend people you do not know in person, or people you know but are not yet comfortable with, even if your friends have them on their friends-list,
- Do not take photos of your undressed body, and never forward such things on to other people, not friends or anyone else (especially using apps like Oovoo and Snapchat),
- Do not be nasty to other people online,
- Be Share Aware – Think ahead if you are writing on Facebook or any other social site, don’t share too much personal information, you never know where it might end up, and
- If you experience something that is upsetting to see or hear, or another person is being abusive towards you contact an Adult/Parent/Teacher/ for help or advice.
By the time our children are 16-18, they should be fully aware of such rules and hopefully can be trusted to make the right choices in life.
When using online services be respectful to others, just the same as in any face to face interactions. In the same that you would teach a child it is not nice to be bullied or picked on by others at school/home the same rules apply online.
What can our schools do to help kids stay safe online?
Schools play a huge part in educating children of all ages at school on all elements of technology, however their resources only go so far.
Schools have E-safety classes for children. These usually start in Primary School and continue into Secondary school. Teachers receive appropriate online safety training that is relevant to now and regularly up dated, these are all guided by Ofsted.
CEOP work closely with PSHE Association in PSHE Education.
This part of the curriculum aims to keep pupils healthy and safe and prepare them for life and work in modern Britain.
As children reach their teens, they should have a better understanding of technology and social awareness. However the curiosity will be greater as they get older, and other influences can affect them. In addition, how much can schools be expected to keep up to date with the ever-changing social landscape?
What controls are there in place for abuse online?
In the UK, there are organisations in place combating abusers in society. CEOP, the National Crime Agency Law Enforcement fights against:
- Online Imagine Offending
- Online Child Sexual Exploitation (Grooming)
- Transnational Sex offending – UK Nationals travelling/living overseas sexually offending children
- Contact child sexual abuse
CEOP setup the Thinkuknow.co.uk site here in the UK. This site is used by Teachers, pupils and parents, children; a great tool for parents if you require advice or help. The Thinkuknow site is aimed at different ages groups; 5-7, 8-10, 11-13, 14+
This site is giving carers a tool to help teach children what is safe behaviour. It shows how to have Fun, how to stay in Control and if things go wrong how to Report it.
Remember the three themes:
- Understanding the technology
- Engaging with your child
- Educating your children, and yourself.
Also keep in mind those Six rules for Staying Safe online as well
Let’s give our children the tools to feel safe online and most of lets show them how to respect ourselves and one another.
The information presented here was based on attending the Child Internet Safety Conference The entire day was spent with governing bodies of teams dedicated to keeping our young people safe online. This is never going to be an easy task and, sadly, most possibly something that will be impossible to protect 100%.
The guest speakers for the day were:
- Bill Thompson; New Media Pioneer, Conference Chair
- John Carr; UK Government Adviser on Online Child Safety and Board Member UKCCIS
- Alan Wardle; Head of Public Policy, NSPCC
- Julian David; Chief Executive Officer – TechUK
- Alex Holmes; Anti-Bullying Progamme Manager at The Diana Award
- Tony Anscombe; Senior Security Evangelist, AVG
- David Brown HMI; National ICT Lead, OFSTED (Not in the photo)
There were a lot of seminars to attend throughout the day with a vast amount to take on board.
Personally, I have always understood how important online safety is. However, until this seminar I never realised the impact of not taking full responsibility as a parent to assist my children to safeguard them from unexpected events. I hope that these guidelines will help you to help your kids to stay safe too.