Child Safety and the Internet

Child Safety and the Internet

There’s no denying it that the internet is a big part of children’s lives; with new kinds of lessons about child safety – for both them and us parents to learn about. My husband and I learnt the hard way that we had to be savvier about what goes on online when we potentially could have lost our children due to some issues with child safety and the internet. Here I will cover things that every parent should think about when it comes to children’s internet safety and some things that are happening that we may need to be aware of.Child Safety and the Internet

There are so many devices that children can access the internet on now – not just Personal Computers, but each one has roughly the same issues for child safety. There are laptops (which are obviously portable), games consoles (including portable ones), tablets, iPods, Skype, WhatsApp and there’s probably a lot more I haven’t remembered. PLUS there’s the fact that even if your child does not have access to one of these then once they leave the home then someone else can show them on theirs. Plus it seems that children are having mobile phones younger and younger. For me internet safety falls into two categories – the first being the obvious we need to stop our young children accidentally coming across content (whether that be visually or people) that is not safe or suitable for them; and the second is those who are going looking for that content – out of either curiosity growing-up and/or peer pressure.

Some problems with Child Safety and the Internet

Spending

Let’s start with the lesser of the evils and that is spending. Be careful of in-app purchases and advertising around what they are using online – we ensure everything requires a password and that you need to keep re-entering the password rather than it still working when you give the child back the device. Obviously also ensure that the content is age-appropriate for the child before you download it too.

Children keeping themselves safe

These are probably the problems that we are most familiar with – knowing that children must be aware that not everyone online is who they say they are. Make sure your child knows basic rules such as not to tell everyone everything about themselves – not a photo in your school clothes with the logo, your address, telephone number, password or even your age and name. Using nicknames to connect with friends is a good idea – and once they start wanting to play on “servers” – but try to ensure that these are moderated. Don’t accept things from people you do not know – including messages, e-mails and texts.

Make sure any social media accounts are private, not public, and that they only connect with people they know. Plus regularly check the security settings. Ensure that they are in the living room with their devices and make sure you can hear what is going on – I would think twice about headsets until you are absolutely sure that they would be safe (we are still saying no to our thirteen year old). The same can be said of webcams and if they have access to “Facetime”. If they do decide to meet up with someone make sure other people know where they are going (with permission of their parents) and meet in a public place.

Bullying

Some of the things that children are experiencing today are much the same as we did when we are growing up – bullying and peer pressure, wanting to be “grown-up” etc but now they are magnified with the use of the internet. I am sure we have all seen the videos on social media of the children being beaten up whilst someone else is just standing their filming it on their phones. Other bullying can be a lot more subtle – little comments, exclusion – including not giving “likes” and even nasty or inappropriate private messages. I think it is important to be aware of the platforms that have these private messages as you may only be monitoring your child’s account by having them as a “friend.” Top ones that spring to mind for me are: Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and any games which have a chat facility. I find that on YouTube people can be just nasty publically. I guess it is so much easier to be an anonymous behind a keyboard. Plus be aware that your child is capable of making a new account where they know you know nothing about it. I am not sure which is worse – having a child who is bullied or IS the bully?! Either way try to keep a close-eye on their activity and devices. Take an interest in what they are doing online – what are they playing, and join in. Let them know that they can come to you if they feel that they are someone else is experiencing something unpleasant.Child Safety and the Internet

Inappropriate content

So one minute your child is watching a video on YouTube – a Minecraft Video, or Peppa Pig – and the next thing they are watching a totally inappropriate Peppa Pig video that someone has made. It has come on because YouTube thinks it is of a similar nature and lets it autoplay. In situation one you can avoid this by getting your children to use YouTube Kids and parental controls. However children are very technically minded and can easily change the settings (for example to say that they are over eighteen years old) in order to search for this content. Some people would argue that this natural curiosity is no different to sneaking an adult magazine into their bedroom when they were younger – but that it is a lot more accessible. I am afraid that there is a lot more seriousness than this with videos being available to children of a very abusive nature and not what they are ready to cope with; never mind any cyber grooming they put themselves at risk of. I believe Google search and YouTube to be known to have the worst most easily accessible inappropriate content to children.

Other things that are happening at the moment are sexting and sending naked images and I have even read about children opting to access porn as young as 7 years old – and this wasn’t a one-off child. This could be due to hearing things at school and from other kids – who may have older siblings. Of course online grooming is very real such as the case of murdered teenager Kayleigh Haywood.

I think the most important thing here is to talk open and frankly with your child about these issues. Don’t make them feel ashamed. Let them know that they are loved and it is dangerous/unsafe. Remember what it was like to want to be older than you are and wanting to fit in. Tell them that their curiosity and urges are normal (even if you wish they were not). Do things to ensure that their self-esteem is raised and not damaged from the experience.

Extreme Measures for keeping children Safe Online

Sometimes as parents we need to take extreme measures – as maybe the case if your child has ended up with an addiction. Our devices are now controlled by our HomeHalo (which only allows the internet at certain times, controls each device for where it can and can’t access and at what times – I have also heard there is one called Guardian Web) plus we completely turn the router off at night; there are administrator accounts on things were possible and each one needs a password entering before anyone can use it – which only us parents know. There are then parental controls – which are also on the television (we even had to stop children’s channels being accessible in the middle of the night); the history is monitored and small handheld devices are locked away at night-time (we bought a safe especially for this). We haven’t but you can install an app such as SMS Backup+ which e-mails a copy of every SMS, MMS and WhatsApp message that is sent or received on a phone, as well as logging every incoming and outgoing phone call. Plus you can set e-mail accounts to auto-forward copies of every e-mail sent or received from your child’s address.

Resources of help for keeping Children Safe Online

    • Books are a great source of help especially the ones that help children understand what is happening to them as they grow up.
    • The NSPCC – they have a great range of resources for these topics for different ages. I like the one called I saw your willy – that demonstrates that even if you post something for a few seconds and delete it – it is too late and potentially the whole world can see it.
  • For parents there is the Youngminds Parents’ Helpline  which offeres free confidental online and telephone support, information and advice to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of twenty-five years old. It is a free call – 0808 8025544.
  • Thinkuknow, is a website set up by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and offers advice and guidance for both children and parents.
  • Read about the Xbox One Parental Controls

Of course with our special needs children there is even more of a risk of their vulnerability – and they may not understand what is appropriate and what isn’t. This is, unfortunately, how we came to discover that our son is also most likely on the Autistic Spectrum. Luckily it did not go unnoticed and he was safe – but not without a lot of hard work on his part and a lot of emotional distress.

28 thoughts on “Child Safety and the Internet

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this – it really is such a huge issue.

    Kayleigh’s story stunned me when I saw it the other day so this is really good timing as I’m planning to discuss this all again with my two this week.

  2. Thanks for the fantastic advice & raising awareness. As a teacher, I have had to deal with this subject numerous times & is one of my largest concerns now that I am a mum and the internet becomes a larger part of life with each passing day! Such a shame as it is such a brilliant resource that I know I couldn’t live without! x

    1. I am just really glad that schools are aware and doing things to try and help raise awareness with the children and parents too. Think it was more a shock to us as we both work online and thought we had everything covered.

  3. Well done for highlighting this issue. We give our kids regular talks about safety – not disclosing what school they go to, where they live and never ever to chat with strangers.

    It’s so important that they are protected on this, so job well done for writing about this.

  4. It is scary how things than escalate and quickly – did you see the American news and the youtube star that helped highlight the dangers too?

  5. Such a great post and I am off to look at Home Halo as that may well be just what I need. It is such a huge problem for parents these days and I know my two are addicted to their devices, I do make sure that I keep an eye on what they are watching but it is really hard to monitor and both of those stories you mentioned are so awful, so a reminder of how important it is to monitor these things.

  6. What a great post. This is something I’m becoming more aware of with our 12year old and we’ve already had to tackle the sex video issues. We no longer allow him to have his phone in his bedroom. Thanks for writing this, while it’s something we don’t really want to face it’s something we HAVE to deal with.

  7. This is so important, thank you for sharing. It is definitely something that makes me more nervous as they grow up and although they aren’t at that stage yet, we have been keeping an eye out on youtube autoplay because that nearly got us once, so we have since made our own playlists!

  8. Thanks for this article. It is relevant to my child as he has Asperger’s Syndrome and a Visual and Auditory Processing Disorder with working memory difficulties. He too was not diagnosed until he was 10. When I brought the subject up both his school and social services blamed my parenting, accusing me of seeking to have him diagnosed and even making diagnoses myself! Our Health Visitor said at a Child Protection Conference when my child was four “none of your children has special needs”. Five years later, my eldest son (older brother to the AS child) was fortunate enough to be given a bursary place at an independent school at which he is now flourishing. After six months there the school SENCO pointed out that he likely had dyspraxia. We had always wondered why he had such a strange gait when running and continually bumped into people and had accidents. Livid with so-called professionals I took my AS son to an ed. psych. and part of his report included the recommendation that he should have an AS assessment. Social Services finally had to admit my children’s needs but still used the parenting excuse. These children are from my second marriage. From my first marriage my adopted son (mo SEN’s apart from mild dyslexia) eventually became a doctor. That really takes bad parenting. Take heart parents: be strong, stick together and don’t let judgemental professionals with prejudices derail you.

    1. I’m sorry you have had this experience – we too ended up at a Child Protection Conference with social services blaming our parenting – at no point did they offer any solutions to “correct” it though.

  9. Child safety on the internet is vitally important, and this is a really useful guide, thank you.

    I have teenagers and a much younger children, and have found it is so difficult to control what is what once they have access. My younger child is only allowed to see things online when he is with someone.

    But I have witnessed all sides of worrying things, from bullying to inappropriate content. It really is a minefield.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I personally just wish the likes of Google, YouTube, Facebook and the like would take more control to ensure that content on their sites are suitable.

  10. Safeguarding is such a huge issue and one which is so important. I don’t have children but I have nieces and nephews and it terrifies me what they might find online x

  11. I need to look into HomeHalo sounds good. The in-app purchases really annoy me especially with children’s games.
    I do worry about my kids accessing the wrong type of content and others online too – kids are so innocent that they rarely see the bad in situations/people so is very worrying

  12. What a great post! I’ve thought about some of this, but not all of it. You’ve really gone into it in a lot of depth and that is so helpful. I like the sounds of the HomeHalo. My biggest issue is that my 15yo son won’t go to sleep at night and I’m sure it’s because his phone is a distraction.

  13. Some great tips here Joy. I had no idea that there are so many ways that parents can control and restrict the way kids use the web. I must admit I am petrified for when my boys do start to use devices I am hoping to keep them off the internet and using devices for as long as possible!

  14. I think it’s really important to be aware of all the dangers because there are many and they are so easily accessible even to very young children. We have a parenting control app we use and it really helps to give piece of mind

    Laura x

  15. A very useful post, thank you. I worry so much about my daughter online – especially when she sees me living a lot of my life (as a travel blogger) online. Is the Home Halo link working? I went to check it out but I’m not sure it took me to the right place.

  16. This is such an important post. My children don’t have access to any computers, games consoles or tablets yet but I do have to be careful what they watch on YouTube via my TV. They once put on what they thought was Peppa Pig but there was a giant syringe on the screen and Peppa was crying. I switched it off straight away and I wish nasty things posing as kids programmes weren’t allowed on YouTube really but it’s a sick world we live in now. Bunny has access to the internet at school and I’ve said that when she starts secondary school she can have a phone, so I want to start educating her about internet safety now. The school held an internet safety evening, but apparently nobody showed up. However, I am dubious about the schools version of safety, as they also sent a letter home (the same day) asking for permission to put the children’s names and photos on the internet… not very safe sounding to me!

    There’s a lot of very valuable and important information in this post and I hope that many parents will read it. I am going to show Bunny the NSPCC video you’ve embedded, as I think it’s really important and such a simple and silly mistake for children to make. They just don’t realise the severity of their actions.

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