Children and Online Safety

Sometimes it feels that we are the only family without an ipad, and our children are the only ones without access to one. At 2 years old, and 4 years old, we can’t see any need for our children at this stage to really need access to such a device or to the Internet.
Very rarely the boys will be able to use my Kindle, simply to watch videos on YouTube, this always has to be done with either myself or my husband nearby, and still somehow the boys are able to find something we would rather they didn’t.

Online safety is really important to me, especially as only a few years ago I was subjected to bullying online.
It affected me a lot, and even now I feel wary of who I am talking to, what I say and feel extra conscious of things others may be saying about me within certain communities.
If it affects me like this, as an adult, then I can’t help but to wonder what it must be like for a child.

Reading the Norton Ten Tips to Keep Kids Safe Online article shocked me with the stastic that at least 20% of children will receive hateful, insulting or harassing messages online. I think 20% is pretty high. 
The article gives great advice on ways we can protect our children (and ourselves) online, from simple things such as choosing difficult passwords and avoiding clicking on spam links, to thinking about our online reputation. You only have to look at various showbiz stories to see that sexting or sending your boyfriend/girlfriend naked photos, which may seem innocent at the time, can ruin your reputation and even your career.

I can’t help but wonder at what age Charles will come home from school, ask to use the computer and access Facebook for the first time. As someone who has used Facebook (and once Myspace) for a number of years it scares me to think that my child will one day use it, or use a site similar to it.
Why am I scared? Because I think within the wrong hands social media can go horribly wrong. If Facebook is used in a safe way, limited to real friends with limited private messaging and limited photo uploading then I see nothing wrong with it. But fake Facebook accounts are regularly set up, children are easily taken in by these fake accounts, quite rightly so as there is no way to know any different and before you know it Cyberbullying is now part of your life.

I think it’s important as adults for us to be aware of different social media networks, the different sites our children frequent on, and how to work these sites. Growing up me and my brother were regularly using Yahoo Messenger and on a few occasions would be approached by odd characters but thankfully we were sensible enough to walk away and to be able to understand if someone was being inappropriate.
What worries me, looking back, is that my parents didn’t really know which sites we were on or the dangers we faced. I don’t think this is a negative thing towards my parents as the online community and online safety wasn’t as well known or as dangerous as it is now.

I’m quite positive that as parents now, my husband and I are aware of a lot of the social websites around and that we are clear on the dangers. We know how to protect our computers with passwords and by checking the history, but also with products that check exactly what your child is looking at, and to limit the time they spend online.

I’m also very aware of the information we put out there about our children. As a blogger I have shared a lot more than any other parent. This is something I have recently become conscious of and as a result have made certain rules and changes to protect my children. Maybe I’ve left it too late and have shared too much already, but moving forward, keeping certain things to myself and keeping certain aspects of our lives, particularly Charles’school life, private is the only way I can maybe undo anything I have done wrong in the past.

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