Friday, 19 April 2013

Your children and the internet: how scared should you be?

by neoneddy on flickr
If you've got children over the age of about four, the internet will feature in their lives somehow. When they start it's quite easy to keep tabs on them and monitor their use of the cBeebies site. 

However, quickly they move on from that and things become altogether darker. 

On the one hand (if the speakers were to be believed) the web is a scary place where danger lurks at every click. Yet on the other, it's without doubt where the futures lies. Broadband is becoming a human right rather than a bit of high tech magic. Plus I like it online, it's my kind of place.

But what are we gonna do then to keep our little - and not so little - chicks safe from the bullies and bogiemen? 

OK, first round up all the things they can get the internet on - phones, Wii, Xbox, laptop, ipad, ipod and tablets - and fix the settings. Parental control and privacy settings - do it for Facebook, Google and Youtube. And make your kid's Twitter account protected. Download free security softwear and switch it on. 

Now forget all about that and drill into them - nothing is private on the net. Again NOTHING IS PRIVATE ON THE NET and furthermore EVERYONE CAN SEE EVERYTHING. OK maybe it seems that they can't but clever sneaky ones will be able to and it's a good rule to follow anyway. 

Tell them to visualise granny seeing what you've just put on Facebook, imagine teachers looking at your blog posts and how about everyone in class watching you writing nasty things about someone. 

Then remember that the internet is full of people - most of whom are perfectly lovely most of the time - just like real life. So there will be pervs and thieves, bullies and bitches just like in the playground, pub and park. 

The best analogy of the night was that if the internet is a place, which it surely is, then treat it as you would any other place. So your child is off to the pool, shopping centre, street corner, friend's house, or anywhere else, chances are there will be negotiations. Where are you going? Why? What are you going to do there? Who else is going? When will you be back? Same deal when they go online - ask them and don't stop until you are satisfied by the answers. 

Apply common sense. 

Of course you can know your child's passwords and check their browsing history (if they haven't cottoned on to deleting it), you can be their friends and stalk them through cyberspace, but the aren't going to like it one bit. And less so as they get older. You wouldn't dream of denying them privacy IRL, so don't expect access all areas online either. 

Apply more common sense.

By all means tell them about the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) reporting button, show them websites full of advice, but in the end you must talk to them about the internet, let them get on with it, and trust them.

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