A week doesn’t seem to pass where we hear something about online grooming, paedophiles, or young children being exposed to inappropriate images. It is easier than ever for children to access the internet and social media from an array of devices, laptops, PCs, phones, iPods, tablets, game consoles and Smart TVs. Portable devices means that youngsters are more likely to be out of parental sight when using the Internet and parents can be completely unaware of what their children are viewing.
Whilst computers and the internet offer a wonderful resource of information, of sharing ideas and making friends, we need to protect and more importantly educate ourselves and our children to be safe. Kids need to be online stranger aware, conscious of their own and others privacy, as well as understand the pitfalls of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Ask.fm) as well as the risk of viruses and other internet baddies.
Internet safety is on the curriculum in schools, but you cannot afford to be complacent. For some parents and carers this is a challenge as their own PC and technology knowledge is below that of their school aged children. However, there is a fantastic website created for schools, parents and carers run by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. It shares lots of advice on how to go about talking to your children about their on-line safety: www.thinkuknow.co.uk
Many internet providers offer family protection software for free and some even offer to block content before it reaches your house. As a bare minimum you can “safe lock” Google so inappropriate content won’t show up even if you search for it. (Type SafeSearch into Google for more information or click here). Some software allow you to monitor a child’s activity which could create a gateway for you to talk about internet safety with older children.
Many tablet computers and iPods have built in parental controls which can be used to block inappropriate games and online content. This is especially useful on YouTube, where an innocent search for Thomas the Tank Engine can introduced an innocent child to a plethora of swear words!