Tuesday 05 February is Safer Internet Day.
Parents and carers play a key role in supporting children to learn about how to stay safe online, and they are one of the first people children turn to if things go wrong. We know it can be difficult to stay on top of the wide range of sites and devices that young people use, so we hope that the following advice helps.
We know that children, particularly younger children, can be bothered by things they see online, and filters can be a helpful tool in reducing the chances of coming across something upsetting. Remember that filtering is only part of the solution, no filter or parental controls tool is 100% effective, and many of the risks that young people face online are because of their own and other’s behaviour. It is therefore important to talk to your children about staying safe online with your child and make sure they know that they can turn to you if they get into any difficulty.
Smartphones provide a variety of interesting activities and ways for young people to engage with their friends and families. However, it is important to be aware of what these devices can do and how you can talk with your child to help them to use this technology in a safe and positive way.
Firstly when you sign up to a mobile contract, make sure that you and your child understand the contract’s internet data allowance – accessing the internet uses internet data and if you go over your allowance it may cost you. Secondly understand the capabilities of smartphones and how you as a parent can support your child to be smart and safe in their smartphone use. Finally talk with your child about safe and responsible smartphone use and agree a set of family rules. Perhaps you could agree rules with your child about not meeting up with people they have only met online, how much they are allowed to spend on apps, what websites it’s okay and not okay to visit, and whether their phone should be switched off at night. Remember that smartphones connect to the internet, so the same advice and rules for keeping safe online apply.
All smartphones have internet access. This allows a wide range of app functions and it allows you to browse the web and go on social networks like Facebook. Smartphones can be easy for young children to use, but this does not necessarily mean they’re ready to use them. It is worth bearing in mind that children, especially younger children, can be upset and distressed if they come across age-inappropriate material. Parental controls can be a real help and may be particularly important for younger children. For older teens it can also be a help, but it may be more appropriate to talk about dealing with peer pressure to share and watch content that is inappropriate rather than just simply blocking access to YouTube, for example.
There are several options to help limit internet capability on smartphones, so it is worth considering what would be helpful for your family. However, remember that filtering is only part of the solution and it is important to talk with your child about how they use the internet on their phone and make sure they know what to do and that they can turn to you if they get into any difficulty.
When they are out and about, smartphone users access the internet via 3G connection which is provided by the data allowance in their mobile contract. All mobile network providers provide parental controls. Some will have these on as default, but others you will need to request to be turned on. For example, Tesco Mobile and O2 have a parental control option to ensure that only websites they have classified as suitable for children under 12 can be accessed. Contact your service provider to find out about filtering options.
When smartphone users are at home, they often connect to their home wireless internet (to save using up their 3G data allowance). This does mean that any filtering options set up with your mobile provider do not function. You can speak to your home internet service provider to see if they have options for filtering the internet for all devices accessing your home internet. For example, TalkTalk customers can activate HomeSafe to help filter the internet on all connected devices using the home wifi.
Smartphones provide a wide range of communication channels – calling, texting, instant messaging, social networking, video calling, chatting to other players in games and emailing to name a few. This is great for young people, who love to socialise, but these channels can also allow unwanted and hurtful contact. Smartphones can be used by bullies, and young people can make themselves vulnerable to contact by those with a sexual interest in children, particularly if they share their personal information.
Because of the interactivity of smartphones, the same advice that you give your child about keeping safe online also applies. Speak to your child about the importance of not giving anyone any personal information, such as their phone number, school or address, or meeting up with anyone they don’t know in real life. Encourage your child to tell you if anything makes them uncomfortable or upset. Speak to your child about whether they share their mobile phone number on their Facebook profile – this is not recommended, even if their profile is private/set to ‘friends’ only. Make sure that they know how to report unwelcome contact, and how to make use of safety tools such as blocking and privacy settings.
While many young people experience the internet and mobile phones as a positive and integral part of their life, mobile phones can be used in incidences of cyberbullying. There is no single solution to the problem of cyberbullying, but there are steps that you can take to help prevent cyberbullying and support your child if they are experiencing cyberbullying. Ensure that your child knows how to block contacts on Facebook, BBM or any other communication channels they use, and knows how to make reports to any service they use. Ask your mobile operator how you can report and block unwanted or abusive calls or messages. If you suspect that your child is or has been the subject of an inappropriate sexual contact or approach by another person you should report this to Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre at www.ceop.police.uk in the UK
Most importantly keep lines of communication open with your children. Be aware of the dangers yourself and remember that children will be children and don’t blame them as there are many things out there that are intentionally setup to exploit them.
To find out more, please call us on 0845 504 8989, or complete our contact form.