Tuesday 29 October 2013

Keeping Children Safe Online

The Internet is growing bigger as time moves forward. There are new apps, websites and shops and in fact, you can do virtually anything online these days.
In my naivety, I thought that Liam was too young to be playing on computers, phones or even game consoles. From my standpoint, I want to do my best to keep him away from computing at this stage - after all he is only three years old.
A harsh realisation dawned on me when I visited his school a few weeks ago. The staff told me that the children have lessons learning about computers, laptops, remote controls, how to work a phone and they even get to learn how to use an iPod, so keeping children away from technology, especially online technology is simply just not an option.

Does it worry me that my child is using computers from such an early age? Of course it does! It is a sign he is growing into a little boy and he is not a baby anymore. Not only that, there are very real dangers inherent to being online; one wrong word, key, or click and it could take him somewhere completely inappropriate.
To be quite honest, I have full trust whilst Liam is at school considering the online safety measures they have in place and knowing that they’re monitoring everything the children are accessing - It’s at home that worries me the most.

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He has started asking to watch CBeebies and he likes to watch storybook apps. I quite like that they enjoy them and I also like that it helps them to learn the alphabet when they're looking on the keyboard for the letters.
Of course, using any technology device is supervised; neither Liam nor Adam are ever going to be left to use the laptop or any other piece of technology unattended. Even at their tender age, they know they are not to touch any computing devices without mummy mummy’s supervision.

I know I won’t always be able to look over Liam's shoulder to see what he is viewing. He’ll also want me to be more trusting of him when gets older, alongside the request for more privacy which I suppose I’ll fully understand by then. That being said, I’ll have to find other ways and means to keep him safe online that’ll allow him these freedoms.

The social media question

I think the worst part of the Internet from a parents perspective is social media; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the list goes on…
I expect by the time my boys ask that dreaded question...."Can I join Facebook", there will be lots of other networking sites.
I know that a lot of the social media sites are age restrictive, however I also know of some children that are under that age restriction. The sites just cannot monitor every single account they have or more to the point what content users share on the site. There just seems to be no restrictions and a lot of the content is uncensored, perhaps even unmonitored.
This in mind, when my boys get to the point where they ask to join any of the social media sites…which I know they will…probably before they're even of an age to understand what social media is or how to use it in the correct manner, I will be saying “NO”.
I will explain my reasons to them, and they’ll likely thinking I am being mean, but it’s our jobs as parents to not only keep them safe in the real world, but to keep them safe online as well.

So what else can we do as parents to keep them safe?
Putting parental controls in place and monitoring will do its part to help, however software alone can’t be the end-all as online security is not 100% fool proof and you’ll find some flaw in even some of the best software as indicated in this article in the Daily Mail. Rather, I think the starting point rests in educating our kids and teaching them good “netiquette”.

This is to put you off software, as there are top performers out there that might be right for you – you just have to do a little digging.
If you clicked through to the Daily Mail article above, you’ll see that there were in fact some top performers worth looking into, such as Blue Coat K9 and Norton Family.  The latter of these two actually came out as the best web filter suited for blocking out unsuitable content, thus winning the PC Pro test.
Among its many features, it comes with a nifty little social media-monitoring tool, which enables us to see how our children represent themselves on different social media sites; including details such as their chosen username, age and profile picture. I know this would be extremely helpful for a lot of parents with teens who are already using social media.
Other features included are a search supervision, personal information protection and time monitoring which shows how long your child has spent on each individual site and online on whole. There is also the option available to monitor your kid’s online activity from your iPhone, iPad or Android mobile if they are out of sight or if you’re out of town.

This tool is free and unlimited for one home network with up to 10 computers, but there is also a premium version with similar specifications, only difference being that it offers more frequent and detailed reports, as well as allowing you to monitor their texts and how they use the internet from their mobile phones.

This is a collaborative article written on behalf of Norton 

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