How safe is your child online?

I consider myself to be a pretty tech-savvy person. I started using computers in Primary School and took a keen interest in them growing up. My approach has always been ‘give-it-a-go’ in that my thoughts are; if I’m about to delete something the computer will generally ask “are you sure?” and if I’m about to head somewhere that I perhaps shouldn’t then again the computer will pop up a little warning of some description. The majority of my ‘tech’ knowledge is self-taught and so I’m 99% sure that I have probably missed one or two very important lessons along the way.

In the past I haven’t had to worry too much about ‘parental controls’ but now that Curly, Little Bean and even Beanie Boy are beginning to use tablet devices with confidence I need to make sure that I am protecting them from the less child-friendly side of the tech-world.

 

Up until a few weeks ago Little Bean only really used the iPad or Android devices for playing games but during her recent ‘Africa’ project at school I had a brainwave when she repeatedly asked me the names of various animals’ offspring. I grabbed the iPad and suggested that when she has a question she wants to ask that we grab the iPad and ask the question together. I thought I was being a reasonably responsible parent as this would no doubt help with her spelling/reading and research skills. The look of pride on her face when she discovered a website with all of the answers to her questions was priceless. It was a real “I did that” moment and I felt proud of myself for giving her this opportunity to do something new for herself. As I turned to the kitchen to get on with cooking dinner, Little Bean asked if she could carry on looking on the iPad. She was in the kitchen with me so I didn’t see any harm in it. Little Bean quickly found cute pictures of lion cubs, baby giraffes and so on. As she clicked around images she suddenly announced “look Mummy that Lion is giving the other lion a piggy-back ride” yes you guessed it! Ok so it’s not exactly the end of the world but in just a few short clicks she found images on a topic that I hadn’t planned on talking to her about just yet and it got me thinking . . . “how safe is their online browsing?”. I thought I had set up the parental controls but it turns out I hadn’t got them anywhere near as ‘safe’ as I would have liked.

AVG Technologies have recently carried out research into the children and their use of technology. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a discussion recently on the ‘Digital Diaries’ findings.

As a parent of young children who will happily pick up my smartphone or any of the PC tablets available in our house, the research revealed some frightening statistics:

0-2 years – Sharenting Trumps Privacy

Despite the ongoing public debate around online privacy, more parents than ever are gifting their children with a digital footprint before they can walk, talk or are even born.

· Over four fifths (81 percent) of the mothers questioned admitted to uploading photos of their child online – with the majority of photos loaded before a child’s first birthday (62 percent) and almost a third (30 percent) during the prenatal stage.

· ‘Sharenting’, where parents publicly share their children’s progress online, was mainly for friends and family (80 percent) – although a quarter (25 percent) do it purely to show off their child.

3-5 years More Screen Smart than Street Smart?

With children increasingly immersed in the digital world from birth, the study highlighted the growing dominance of technology-related life skills over more traditional or practical skills.

· A testament to the rising role of mobile devices in our children’s lives, 57 percent can also operate at least one app on a smartphone or tablet – an increase of 38 percent since the same question was asked four years ago.

6-9 yearsBlurring Real and Virtual Worlds

By the age of 6-9, the internet appears to have become deeply engrained in our children’s social lives, eliciting mixed responses from parents.

· Of the 89 percent of this age group using the Internet, almost half (46 percent) are playing in a kid’s virtual world such as Webkinz™ or Club Penguin™ and almost one fifth (16 percent) are using Facebook.

· Less than one mother in ten (9 percent) viewed these ‘digital playgrounds’ as hindering their child’s social skills, but nearly one in five (19 percent) were aware their children had experienced aggressive behavior online in the last year.

The important thing to remember if you (like me) are immersed in sharenting or (again like me) allow your children to spend time online is that they need to be safe. Make sure you take all the appropriate steps to set up Parental Controls and Privacy Settings. For a great post on how to do this head over to Mediocre Mum.

You also need to take the time to educate your child on the pitfalls of the internet, what to look out for, things to avoid. Don’t let them disappear to the confines of their bedroom to surf the net, encourage them to only use smartphones/tablets/laptops and PC’s in communal areas of the home and ensure they keep the sound switched ‘on’ so that you know what they are doing. You wouldn’t allow them to invite a bunch of strangers off the street into their bedroom so why allow it just because they are ‘hidden’ behind a username on a screen?

 

For more in-depth information on how to protect your child online and allow them to use technology so that they do not get left behind read “One Parent to Another” by Tony Anscombe, AVG Technologies Chief Safety Officer.

Other useful links include to AVG PrivacyFix and AVG PrivacyFix Family (which help you control Facebook privacy settings across numerous profiles) and AVG Family Safety (which includes Family Centre/Kids Corner).  Again, these are free.

UPDATE: My understanding is that PrivacyFix is no more but it’s ok, you can still keep yourself and family protected and here’s how.

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