Saturday, 21 September 2013

Are your kids safe?

Some time ago I wrote a post about internet bullying. Unfortunately, that's not the only thing that's worrying about kids using the internet.

I remember the first day my parents told me we were getting connected. We'd already been using the internet in school to do research and I was looking forward to being able to download some of my favourite albums, legally of course! I'd never run home from school so fast! I sat there for three solid hours waiting for one song to download! And that awful tone... duhhhhh.... waiting in hope that it'll connect first time so you don't have to hear that dreadful screech! That's going through me just thinking about it!

How different is that to today's internet. Fibre optic enables us to reach speeds of up to 100MB - back then we were lucky to get 0.01MB! There was a fraction of websites available then as there is now. According to Royal Pingdom - there were only 361 million users of the internet in 2000. In 2010 there was 1,967 million! That number would be even bigger now. The fastest speeds - it takes less than a minute to download a song, you can watch tv and films through the internet, you can do your weekly shop. It's just that easy to use!

But, of course, with ease comes problems. Are your children as safe as you think?

Picture this, Friday night after school. The whole family has eaten and is now settling watching TV. Your 13 year old daughter asks if she can use the computer to do her school homework. Nothing can harm her can it? She's only researching the royal family and, except for the odd beheading, there's nothing really gory about it. Right? Wrong, as I found out when I did exactly the same. I was in school at the time, aged 15 and researching Prince Albert. I won't go into full explanation because I'm sure most of you see where this is going, but let's just say I was thankful for the slow internet speed back then! By the time I realised what the first image was, I closed the page.

Many parents don't realise this danger. More importantly, they don't realise they can stop this from happening. A simple family protection software with defined controls will allow us as parents to block specific websites while allowing safe ones, not to mention setting limits on the amount of time they spend online after which point they won’t have access to the internet - great if they have a computer in their bedroom! You can also track the websites they visit and the keywords they enter into the search engines, as well as see snippets of the videos they’re watching and so much more too.

My two girls realise the dangers of the internet. I hope that I have drummed it into them enough for them to understand why I go on about it all the time. I show them news stories about cyber-bullying, about viruses and scamming emails, and I try to keep up with everything that changes. As much as I trust them, I still worry about their safety. I even worry about my own sometimes! So we have a set of rules that we stick to. They include;

No downloads without mums permission,
No clicking on adverts,
Only allowed on youtube if mum or dad is present,
Maximum of an hour unless it's for homework,
As well as many others.

There's another problem I face as a mother though. Mobile devices. iPads, phones, even their DSs can go online! How am I supposed to keep them safe when I can't go to school with them? This is where it is so important for parents to teach their children.

A few articles that might help you are;

The Guardian
PC Advisor
They all are interesting reads and taught me a few things!

Back to social media. I've had a Facebook account for about 6 years now. I regularly interact with old school friends, family and play games on there - yes, that silly Candy Crush! But I also get creepy messages, you know the ones, "I just love your profile picture and think you look gorgeous!" - umm, my picture is of a Minion? Are you saying I look like one? I know, and I hope you do too, to just delete and block. But how about that 13 year old daughter? What are the chances of her answering, arranging to meet with this man that thinks she's gorgeous when she thinks differently? What are the chances of her telling you, her parent, that she's meeting him? I'd say slim to none. This is the real world, this happens everyday. Parents need to be aware and be able to stop it happening. I have no problem with children using Facebook, C has an account and only uses it for chatting with school mates and playing games, but that doesn't stop me from sitting next to her when at home, just to make sure.

What are your thoughts? Do you have the internet at home? Do you allow your children to use it, whether supervised or not? What scares you about the internet, if anything? I would love to know!

This post was a collaboration :)


  1. We have one pc the kids can go on and only my lad has a phone with internet - he is 17. Well the eldest does too but as she is away at uni I don't think she counts for the purposes of this post!

    I have all the kids fb passwords and they know I will use them if I think there is need. I do check who is on their friends list and who they are talking to.

    The pc is in the living room, next to my hubby's and where I can see it from the sofa. I don't stand over them as they do their homework but I do keep an eye and will step in - be it to stop something inappropriate or to just give a better search term if they appear to be getting frustrated with lack of progress.

    We have had conversations about the fact that just like in real life there are strange people you wouldn't want to talk to, so are there on the internet. I trust them to be sensible, but it is also my job to keep them safe!

  2. I do worry about my daughter online, especially as she gets near the age she'll want to go on facebook. Thankfully she is totally honest with me and tells me when she's going to download an app or join a website. I hope this continues :-) I like the list of rules you have.

  3. The Internet can be a wonderful resource for kids. They can use it to research school reports, communicate with teachers and other kids, and play interactive games. But that access can also pose hazards. It’s important to be aware of what your kids see and hear on the Internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves online. Just like any safety issue, it's wise to talk with your kids about your concerns, take advantage of resources to protect them, and keep a close eye on their activities.