The internet is an unforgivably vast and undeniably dangerous place, which is open to all ages so long as they have access to it. The things our kids can find online in mere moments are the kind of things we could never have even imagined when we were their age; such is the reality of raising a child in 2014.
But should the responsibility of education and monitoring when it comes to online safety for kids fall 100% on the parents? Or are the teachers just as responsible? This is a question that is up for debate and has no definitive answer, but whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or simply a concerned friend or older sibling, there are certain things that you should know when it comes to children and the internet.
Just because you’ve found explicit content on your child’s computer, smartphone or tablet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they meant to download it. Statistics show that one in four children have experienced unwanted exposure to graphic pictures, which have been sent to them online. These are often sent through social media sites, or through email addresses found in chat rooms. Chat rooms are nowhere near as popular now as they were in the early days of the internet, but they are still kicking around and there is still no way of telling if your kids are actually talking to who they think they’re talking to.
When many young people come into contact with distressing material online, their first instinct will be to hide from it as they might feel embarrassed or ashamed. For this reason, less than 10% of online solicitations are actually reported to the authorities, or even the internet service provider. This means that offenders will continue to get away with it time and time again unless they are called out. The best way to help in this respect is to let your children know that if they are approached online by a stranger, it is not their fault and they should (if anything) be proud for taking a stand against these malicious individuals.
Depriving a child of a mobile phone in this day and age would be seen as (by them and their peers at least) cruel and unusual torture. These devices rarely leave their pockets, and it’s a sadly familiar sight to see families sat around a dinner table with the kids barely focusing on their food as they keep one eye on their Facebook profile or their fingers are busy with texting. The war has already been lost and the tide can be stemmed no longer, so you might just have to live with the fact your child will be almost surgically attached to their phone until they hit their 20’s (and even then they’ll probably struggle). This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t be aware of what exactly your child is using his or her phone for. Spying technology can prove real handy in this regard. You can simply install a text message spy app on his or her mobile phone to get access to all the text messages that are sent or received on the monitored device, along with the details of sender/receiver and the exact time and date at which the messages were exchanged. As for keeping tabs on all cell phone activities, including phone contacts, web
history, images, etc, you may want to opt for an app that offers a more comprehensive list of features. Of course, these apps have a broader scope of monitoring but cost significantly more than their weaker counterpart.
Applications (or ‘apps) such as BBM and WhatsApp are similar (in theory) to internet chat rooms and platforms such as Microsoft’s Instant Messenger, the crucial difference here though, Services such as BBM and WhatsApp have been used as platforms for predators to contact children and can quite easily be hacked into by those with the right knowledge. Because of this, it’s advised you seriously talk your young child out of using services such as these! Tell them, however, that if they insist on using these apps that they only converse with people they already know “In real life.”
Many modern digital TV’s (especially ‘Smart’ TV’s) are connected to the internet and besides putting a password on your Netflix account, there are numerous other factors to consider. For example, it’s incredibly easy for your child to accidentally purchase a program or service through a modern digital TV service with little more than a few button presses. Online services such as ‘Get Me Digital‘ should be able to tell you everything you need to know.
With WiFi, children can access the internet from almost anywhere, but these WiFi stations might not have the same restrictions as your WiFi at home. To solve this problem ‘Friendly WiFi’ will be launched later this year to help with online safety for kids throughout areas such as cinemas, shops, restaurants and more, that will allow parents to let their children loose online without worrying about what they might stumble across.
Unlike ‘traditional’ bullying, where kids could hide in the comforting arms of their parents at the end of a school day, online bullying is relentless and all consuming. The suicide rates associated with online bullying are astonishingly bleak and the most tragic thing is that in most circumstances, the parents simply had no idea it was happening. If your child seems distant, upset and is spending a lot more time online than usual, it’s important that you ask them whether or not they are having any troubles at school or online. Although it’s easy for us to say “Why don’t they just close their Facebook account,” or “Why don’t they just turn off their computers,” this completely goes against their way of life and social networking has exposed this in a terrifying way.
Above all just keep an eye on your children, but not to a point where they think you are snooping! Do what you can and keep their well-being in mind!