How to Keep Our Children Safe Online

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protecting children  online

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Safe Internet Day, last week I visited the Child Internet Safety Conference in Westminster.

The day was rammed full of seminars, panel discussions and talking to interesting people – I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account (you can always take a look at #cisafe to see some of the conversation that was happening on the day), but there were some really important issues and facts that arose on the day that really need to be heard by a wider audience.

For me, the biggest takeaway from the day was that education for our children on internet safety is a holistic issue. Parents, politicians, industry and educators… all have an essential role to play in keeping our young people safe online.

It was interesting that throughout the day, various expected barriers simply disappeared. Political, corporate competition – every speaker came to us as a parent, and it was really heartening to see how all sides of the debate so easily put their usual differences aside and work together.

There needs to be a real Corporate Responsibility to internet safety – this is rolling in the right direction, with many big name technology brands financially supporting UKCCIS, and still more proactively creating their own guidelines and assistance. This corporate responsibility needs to be more than a tick-box check, however – where it is woven into the fabric of an influential company, it can make a huge difference.

For us as parents, there’s a lot to be done – but it all boils done to some very simple basics. Teaching our children about internet safety should be as obvious and basic as teaching them to cross a road safely. The internet is part of the fabric of their lives, and teaching them to walk through it safely is a basic parenting need for our generation.

 

  • 60% of parents are NOT FILTERING web content in their homes. SIXTY percent. People – basic software is available free. Please please set it up and use it.
  • 81% of 2yr olds have an internet footprint
  • More 2-5yr olds know how to play games online than know how to ride a bike
  • 34% of parents do not feel it is their responsibility to teach their children about eSafety.
  • Knowing the technology is often a stumbling block for parents – they feel that the children know more than they do, and are uncomfortable having open discussions in which they may appear ignorant. Parents need to be given the confidence to engage their children in these conversations – the basics are not hard.
  • The biggest danger to our children online is NOT paedophile predators. The top two risks online are Viruses and Cyberbullying.
  • Bullying used to stop at the school gate – now Cyberbullying is a 24hrs endless threat. 28% 11-16yr olds have suffered from cyber-bullying.
  • For us as adults, there is the online world, and then there is ‘Real Life’. For children, however, there is no distinction – they blend and merge and are interchangeable.  Their brain has the exact same pleasure and sensory response from playing in a virtual world as they do when they go to the park. Yesterday’s cowboys and pirates dressing up games are now transferred with the same amount of fun and excitement to dressing a penguin in the best outfit you can manage.
  • The ‘take a village to raise a child’ mentality has shifted away online; somehow we have developed a ‘hands off’ approach to the world wide web, treating it as a sacrosanct freedom. Yet it has become so much an integral part of our daily lives, surely it needs the same amount of monitoring and safeguarding?
  • Parents are rather naïve – only 15% say that their 15-18yr old has been exposed to online porn. The NSPCC says MOST 15-18yr olds have.

 

easy steps to keep your child safe online

  • Install parental controls and good anti-virus software. Try the FREE AVG anti-virus software and the excellent FREE Norton Family package. 
  • Keep the computer in an open space in the family home, and avoid any secrecy. Talk to them about what they are doing, learn about the games they are playing. Children WANT you to be interested and to join in – have fun talking about it. Where there are no secrets
  • Lay out some basic rules: No personal details to be shared online. Ever. Clarify what this means with younger children. No name or age, address, email, telephone etc.
  • Teach children to treat people online as you would in real life – with respect and consideration.
  • All children’s passwords should be shared with a parent
  • Ensure children understand they must not enter live chat with anyone they don’t know in ‘real life’; including using Skype, MSN, iChat etc.
  • If you’re not confident about being online yourself, join in the classes offered by local schools and police. Take advantage of all the help and advice that is available to you – a good place to start is Vodafone’s excellent checklist on Digital Parenting for age-appropriate actions you can take. 

Find out more about Child Internet Safety in this video from AV company AVG:

Picture credit: Shutterstock 

 

Sally Whittle is founder of the Tots100, Foodies100, BlogSummit and the MAD Blog Awards. When she's not working, she can be found blogging at Who's the Mummy, or having fun with her 8 year old daughter, Flea.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. I’m lucky i don’t have to think about these things until Alfie is a little older! but will book marking these articles so when i do need to put something in place i will…..He works my IPad better than me but being 2 and half i don’t need to worry about him surfing the net, only purchasing lots of games 🙂

  2. It’s worrying how much of an issue this has become in the last few years. These are all great pieces of advice and the main thing should be that you educate the child in everything you tell them. Don’t just say they can’t do something, tell them way and teach them about the dangerous of the internet.