Are your children starting to show an interest in the Internet? Are you nervous about them using it? Did you know there are things you can do to control what your children see?
Today is Safer Internet Day, so what better time to look at all matters Internety!
It would be very hard to stop our children using the Internet. They come home from school with homework and need to use the Internet for research. Mobile phones can be used to go online. They can access it in school. It’s all around us, so we’re fooling ourselves if we think we can avoid it.
So what are the kinds of things that worry us when it comes to what our children are seeing online? Pornography, violence, incorrect or misleading information and being groomed, amongst many other things.
Behaviour is key
When it comes to the above, like it or not, children and young people are always going to be curious. It might make it easier to deal with if we don’t think of the technology that they are using. Think of the behaviour instead, behaviour that hasn’t really changed that much from when we were young.
Take pornography for example, I remember the boys in school all giddy with excitement when one of them had managed to sneak a porn magazine from his big brothers room. He was showing it to all the boys in the corner of the school field. And it wasn’t just the boys! I remember a friend getting her hands on a copy of Playgirl from somewhere when we were about 12 and being equally fascinated and horrified by the images of oiled, naked men!
That fascination hasn’t changed, it’s just more accessible. Now the whole Internet is open to them, and this can be worrying. The content that they could be exposed to can be more harmful and more extreme than the photos that we looked at in the magazines.
Filters and parental controls
Your Internet Service Provider (the company that supply your broadband – BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin etc.) will have parental controls. Check out this page by the UK Safer Internet Centre about how to set them up. They can help you to filter out inappropriate content such as pornography and violence.
Not all filters are 100% effective so it’s important for you to educate your children as well so that they know when to switch off, the dangers of accessing that kind of information and so on. Childnet suggest a Family Agreement and have an example of one that lists things to consider as a family.
The NSPCC has worked with O2 to offer advice on keeping children safe online. They have a guide on how to talk to your child here. They also have a helpline that can talk you through setting up parental controls, adjusting privacy settings and other advice on 0808 800 5002.
Internet Matters also have some great tips for different ages and shares useful guides for parents on social networking, gaming, downloading and viruses.
Children are curious
It’s never a good idea to just shelter our children from things as this just makes them more curious. Being able to explain why to them can make them less likely to rebel. Kids being kids they are likely to go against you anyway as they satisfy their curiosity and test the boundaries. This is normal, and we just need to make sure that we are equipping them with the common sense that they need to make informed decisions.
Checking that information is correct
What about incorrect information? ‘Post-truth’ and ‘fake news’ has been in the news a lot recently, and social media sites are being used to make people believe that something is real. Think of all the fake stories going around during the Trump/Clinton election. Did this have an effect on how people voted?
It can be harmful to believe stories that are not necessarily true. Not being able to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not could lead to you making uninformed decisions. If your children are using the Internet as research for schoolwork then not knowing how to spot real information can be harmful to their education.
Check, check, and check again
Teach your children, and yourselves, to double check news stories. What is the URL of the link? Is it a reputable news source? Is it .com or .co.uk. If you’re not sure then Google it, if there are not lots of different sources, including trusted sources such as the BBC, The Guardian etc. then chances are it’s not true.
There are also plenty of fact checking and myth buster sites around that you can search. If there are quotes then check the name and see if it’s a real person/organisation etc. It may take a little longer to check if something is real or not, but it won’t take long for you to get used to doing it. It will become easier and more natural to check information as you go.
Keeping your children safe on social media
Last weeks guest blog from SWGfL can help if you’re worried about your children on social media and who they may be talking to. Learn how to spot the signs and know how to deal with it.
Where to report?
If you see illegal content online, such as child sexual abuse content, you can report it to the Internet Watch Foundation here.
When something online has made you feel worried or unsafe, including online bullying, then you can report this to CEOP.
There is a report button on most social media sites if you are worried about any content or behaviour.
So hopefully this blog will help you create a safer Internet for your children. Maybe you’ve learnt something new, or it might have pushed you to do something that you’ve been thinking of doing for ages. Don’t be scared, be informed.
Family Point Helpline
If you feel you need to talk to someone about this issue or any other problems your family is having then call our advisors on the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline. The helpline is open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. They can help you to find organisations that can help.