Our kids have grown up with social media. They understand it, inside and out. We on the other hand didn’t and as a result are not as Internet savvy as we would like to think.
I would say us parents could be put into one of three categories; Internet Safety
- The media savvy, we understand the Internet; we know the risks and monitor it.
- Those who have no idea about social media, but trust their children, I mean come on, if you have brought them up to know the difference between right and wrong they will be fine right?
- And then there is the worse kind of parent, the, I don’t care; the Internet is a great baby-sitter kind.
I would say as parents we sit between the top two, know the risks monitor the Internet but trust Joe.
However this is the first internet safety myth I have to bust, it doesn’t matter how much you trust your child, the internet is possibly the most dangerous place you can leave your child unattended.
We have had a tough couple of months dealing with parent type 3, and a complacent school. But you know what awareness needs raising! Parents need to know the dangers when they gift their children a mobile phone or access to social media.
The risk is huge, all those 10, 11 and 12 year old’s being allowed to explore and run riot on social media. It’s all new, exciting and they are all doing what kids do, exploring and experimenting. And we are letting them do that because we either A. Trust them, B. Don’t Understand or C. Don’t care what they get up to.
And here is why the Internet is the most dangerous place for children.
- Parent type 3 does not monitor what their children are up to at all. I have been told by the parent of a cyber bully, “She doesn’t care.” The Internet is a free babysitter. These kids have no rules or boundaries; they are clever and think they can delete incriminating evidence. They are lurking online at midnight, even later, asking “who is up, who wants to chat.
- School’s don’t want the grief of getting involved. I was told that a particularly awful case of cyber bullying “wasn’t their problem as it happened outside School” When in fact this is a lie. Schools just don’t want to deal with it. Despite it being clearly stated in OFSTEDs guidelines that it is very much Schools problem. If you are unlucky enough to encounter cyber bullying the support is thin on the ground. I was made to feel like I was the problem for raising the issue. There was NO SUPPORT. School tried to divert the situation to avoid dealing with it.
- Your local education authority don’t care either, I left them to deal with this issue in January they have NEVER called back to help resolve the issue.
- There are adults on-line parading as teenage boys and girls in the hope of grooming an innocent child, who believe they are chatting to a peer of their own age. In reality our children have no idea whether the people they are chatting to are genuinely teenagers unless they know them.
- There are also YouTuber’s videoing kids voices and purposely winding them up during online games for entertainment purposes. Whilst this content may be funny for the watcher, it is fair or kind? And why are these children talking to adults online?
- The Internet does not sleep; there is always someone there to chat with your child no matter what time of day or night.
- Our children are so savvy they find it easy to change restrictions on their phones and accounts to allow them to access adult content. This may be an innocent move to be able to access a particular app. However once unlocked the floodgates are open. Keep passwords secret at all times so they can’t do this.
- Most social media platforms require the user to be 18; there is a reason for this. And if they absolutely have to have it, personally ensure it is on lockdown, private, and YOU monitor their friend’s list. But the best policy is to not allow your child to have social media.
- Snapchat, the teen’s app of choice has a map feature that means your child can be pinpointed to an exact location at any given time by anyone on his or her friends list.
- If a child shares an indecent image, and trust me it has happened already at Joe’s school and the child is 11! Anyone who screen shots and shares it will be prosecuted and potentially put on the sex offender’s register. Not only that, no matter who deletes it, that photo is never going away.
Pretty scary huh!
I honestly wasn’t going to write this post, because it doesn’t fit with my blog or fit with what I like to write. But internet safety is so important.
But here’s the thing I am a parent and a blogger. Surely that gives me some level of responsibility to share this? To make my fellow parents aware of the dangers. Aware that leaving your child alone online is just as dangerous as leaving then alone in town at midnight, they are just as vulnerable. This isn’t about us judging each other, its about awareness and support.
When used safely and monitored the Internet is a wonderful place full of creativity, colour and freedom. But monitoring and education is key. Our kids are learning, pushing the boundaries and exploring new and exciting worlds. The best way to explore is in an informed, protected way.
But ultimately it is down us to educate and facilitate use of online resources and we need to be aware that there is not much support out there when things go wrong, whether it is our fault or not. For some great tips and advice check out Internet Matters who at the time were the only people who were available to answer my questions.