Just before Christmas I saw an advert on Facebook for a free guide from Barnado’s about keeping children safe online and as Biggest Littlesheep has his mobile phone that can access the internet and was getting a (basic) laptop for Christmas I thought it was probably worth having a read to make sure I had considered the salient things… unfortunately the guide didn’t really tell me anything new. I didn’t think I was an expert but it really is quite basic so probably not for you if you already have awareness of the dangers – so if you haven’t already got one I would suggest you don’t waste their resources in getting one – it’s biggest message is to talk to your children about how to stay safe (at which point he yawned and told me they’d been told all that in school).
Then last night I then listened to Sherry Bevan (The Confident Mother) interview Melissa Hood (The Parent Practice) about Parenting in the Digital Age and got a lot more tips. The interview started with acknowledging that our children are growing up in an age where technology is rapidly changing and that an outright digital ban is probably not really that practical so actually what we are really looking at is how much access and what content are they accessing.
How Much is Too Much?
The how much is too much is a long debated subject and there are lots of thoughts on it and some research beginning to come out about it. There are theories that too much can hinder cognitive / emotional and social development impaired by too much and that the other question is what are they not doing if in they are front of screen. Melissa talked about thinking about it as a family and in answer to the how much is too much there isn’t a one=size fits all answer – you need to look at whether screens are interfering with or creating pressure around other activities or not; if children are struggling with anger at being told to turn it off, or don’t know what to do with screen free time, their school work is suffering, they want it first thing in the morning and last thing before they go to bed or are sneaking off to get access then it might be causing issues and it might be too… but that said demonising technology probably isn’t a good idea either and children can learn a lot by using it.
Moving on to the content…
Melissa said that it was important that parents use the security available- parental controls, passwords, timers, content filters , privacy settings etc but that it was important that we do not just rely on technical regulation as children can get round them. She said it was important to use these but we should also educate ourselves (and Google have lots of guides) and that our aim should be to develop digitally educated / well rounded individuals – teaching human regulation and ‘responsible usage’ (remember we need to model the behaviours we want e.g. no mobile phones at the dinner table). The other point I took from her talk was to explain to children why you are making the rules that you are making and let them help.
Then coincidentally we had a letter sent home from the children’s primary school about e-safety, concerns over children opening social media accounts and accessing inappropriate material online. At school they are teaching them to “Zip it. Block it. Flag it.” which means don’t give out personal information, leave the site (or use the CEOP button to report material) and to inform an adult straight away.
Places to find out more:
Common Sense Media – this is a great website to check out games / films / books / apps / websites and music ratings to find out what they are rated and why.
CEOP Child Exploitation and Online Protection) Command – the side of the National Crime Agency who work to identify the threats to children and coordinate activity against the threats and bring offenders to account.
THINK U KNOW – which again has lots of information about websites and new technology with areas for children of different ages and perhaps most importantly there is a place which any one can use to report if they feel uncomfortable or are worried about someone they are chatting to online.