Are your kids safe?
Worried about your kids being online? IT expert Barnaby Relf of IT As A Service, helps to keep you in the loop and them safe.
Spend too much time with your face glued to your phone – swiping, scrolling, liking and sharing *cough? Of course we do and we’re adults who in theory have the good sense to switch off and obviously should know better. So when you’re contemplating giving your kids their first phone, you can only wish it was as innocent as the pre-school plastic variety with its irritating tune and slightly creepy smiley face.
On a practical level it’s brilliant for us to stay in contact with our freedom-fighting kids, but on the downside how on earth do you monitor and manage social media, internet access, gaming, apps, cyber bullying, let alone something as basic as losing the darn thing?
Barnaby Relf of IT As A Service – a business that offers IT services to individuals at home and businesses – is a cyber superhero. He lives in Berkshire with his three boys (including two teenagers) so understands parental fears. Here he offers some practical advice, information and a realistic approach. Over to you Barnaby…
What do we know?
Facts and stats can be a bit dusty, but it helps to understand what we’re dealing with. An Oxford Uni study of 12-15 year olds revealed 14% of kids had had a negative experience, 8% had been contacted by strangers wanting to be their friend, 4% had seen someone pretend to be them online, 2% had seen sexual content, and 3% had seen something that scared them. When the teenagers’ parents were interviewed about whether they had used technical tools to control and manage their childrens’ access to online content, only 33% had used content filters – and many didn’t even know about content filters.
Before you start looking like the scream emoji, educating yourself as an adult is essential in teaching your kids to make smart choices when it comes to their smartphones.
Learn the lingo
Tech moves rapidly. There’s a tidal wave of new apps, iProducts and sites popping up all the time. It’s hard to keep up, especially with tech savvy teens. Content filters are a good way to restrict access to material, but they’re not failsafe. The best method? Education. In order to educate the kids we, as parents, we need to be fully informed too. Burying your head in the sand is not an option. Want to learn the lingo? Here’s a few phrases to get you started.
Content filter: a way of limiting access to pages on the internet by examining it before it is shown to the user and deciding whether or not it is acceptable.
Cookie: a small file that is sent to your web browser by the site you are visiting, it is used to keep track of your preferences, shopping choices and other info.
Creeping: not Halloween! Following someone’s social network profile excessively.
Cyberbullying: bullying behaviour which takes place through the use of electronic means such as emails , texting, or posts on social media
Fabotage/ Fraping: Facebook sabotage, used to describe hijacking and meddling with someone’s Facebook profile while unattended
Griefing: when an online player deliberately irritates and harasses other players in the game
Grooming: when a stranger tries to start a relationship with a child for unlawful purposes (using chatrooms, social networks, games) – can happen online or offline
Hacker: no not the worst golfer on the course! People who gain unauthorised access to data using a computer or a mobile device
Malware: Malicious Software are programs that damage your computer (viruses), steal your personal information (spyware), display unwanted adverts (adware), or exposes your device to hackers (trojan horses)
Phishing: attempts to trick people to visit malicious websites by sending emails or other messages pretending to be banks or online shops. The sites look the same but are not and is where passwords and account details can be stolen.
Sexting: sending sexually explicit photos, messages or video clips to mobile devices or social network sites (e.g. Facebook, SnapChat, Whatsapp, Instagram)
Walled garden: devices or sites where you can only use their content and add content from their app store. E.g. Kindle, Club Penguin
Worm: a malicious computer program that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers. Worms can be hidden in email attachments
Zipit: app developed by ChildLine – it aims to help teenagers deal with difficult sexting and flirting situations
Keep calm and carry on
No one said this was going to be easy… with tech speak, teen speak, hormones and the general emotional rollercoaster that double figures brings, the key is to establish some rules. Start by discussing the dos and don’ts. Don’t bombard them with questions (little but often). Timing is everything – family mealtimes are good. Be open, share and model the right behaviour. Point the finger, the heels will dig in and the barriers will go up. Warn them of the consequences of breaking the rules. No one likes surprises especially kids and especially grumpy teens! I have 3 boys (16, 14 and 8 going on 24!), so I know all the pitfalls and some might say I’m still going through the pain and you’d be right! Be calm and patient.
What do you talk about? Start with Online reputation: all online activity creates a digital footprint that lasts forever. Only post things you happy for people to see or read. Treat people the way you want to be treated and always think before posting. Critical thinking: make them aware people hide behind fake profiles; be critical – what you’re viewing may be fake; agree boundaries to allow some freedom. Personal safety: keep your personal details private using privacy settings and create strong passwords (avoid birthday, names of pets and siblings).
For the older kids block apps from running after certain times. Digital ninjas will always find ways to bypass these restrictions – so you have to be a bit hardcore and turn off the wifi after a certain time (even if it stops boxset bingethon. This can be done for all or by individual devices. Short term pain for long term gain!!
Take a swipe at social
Social media can be brilliant. And kids love the idea of connecting with their mates online. The minimum age to open an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Snapchat is 13. For Vine and Tinder it’s 17. YouTube requires account holders to be 18, but a 13-year-old can sign up with a parent’s permission. Despite these clearly stated and published age restrictions, large and growing numbers of children 12 and under are using social media networks, often with their parent’s knowledge and consent. So what do you do? Some parents insist on following their kids online. This might be OK when they are younger, but it does not take long before the idea of having a parent as a ‘friend’ is deeply uncool. It is only encourages teens to be secretive and open new accounts. Again, talk about the issues, monitor their posts and let them know the consequences of poor online behaviour.
Back to basics
- Use the app store settings to show age appropriate apps (Google Play or Apple iStore); check that app and in-app purchasing requires a password; turn off ‘location services’ so you child doesn’t unintentionally share their location with others (you can set location services on and then revoke the rights on an app by app basis).
- Review apps on their devices – check age ratings with net-aware.org.uk; check privacy settings across all social, messaging, and gaming apps they use.
- Turn on safe search – Google SafeSearch blocks explicit results and turn on YouTube ‘restricted mode’ to help prevent inappropriate content being screened.
- Agree boundaries – talk about how to be responsible and stay safe when online, stay engaged by having regular conversations about what they do online.
- Check they’re connected safely – use parental controls on your broadband to block inappropriate content.
- If you can, try to keep phones and devices out of bedrooms.
You’ll find Barnaby and his brilliant business in our Little Black Book. He’s that good.