Do you know what your children are up to online?

Saturday, 1st March 2014

The internet and smart phones can be fantastic ways for your children to learn, explore and connect with friends and family but it’s also really easy for children and young people of all ages to take risks.

Without thinking many kids take and share digital pictures, post and share information online, look at inappropriate web pages, chat with people they’ve never met and spend money online.

Some of the statistics are shocking. Did you know that:

  • 40% of 13 year olds have created an image or video and shared it
  • Children start using the internet by themselves at 5 years old
  • 1 in 3 of your child’s social networking friends are people they’ve never met
  • 57% of young people use the internet with no safety/parental controls set
  • 60% of 13 year olds have been asked for a sexual video or image of themselves
  • 75% of parents don’t know how to keep their kids safe online

But you can help change this…

The Step Up to Online Safety campaign challenges parents to find out more about the dangers and talk with their kids about avoiding the most common risks.  Just follow these easy steps:

Internet security for parentsStep 1 – Here’s how to talk to your child about online safety

With children starting to use the internet independently from as young as five, they need to know a few basics.

Talk SMART with them now (Thanks to the UK Safer Internet Centre for this information).

  • S – Safe. Keep safe by being careful not to give out personal information, such as your name, email, phone number, home address, or school name to people that you don’t know.
  • M – Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous.  Only do so with the permission of a parent or carer and when they can be present.
  • A – Accepting emails, instant messages or opening files from people you don’t know or trust can be dangerous – they may contain viruses or nasty messages.
  • R – Reliable. Someone online might be lying about who they are, and information you find on the internet may not be reliable.
  • T – Tell someone, tell your parent or carer or someone you can trust if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried.

Internet security for parentsStep 2 – Here’s how to avoid bullying online

Online or cyberbullying is when someone uses technology like the internet or a mobile phone to deliberately hurt, humiliate, harass, intimidate or threaten someone else.

It’s become a growing problem as children and young people use technology more and more as part of their everyday life.

Did you know? 28% of 11-16 years olds have been deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group through the use of mobile phones or internet (Beatbullying, Virtual Violence II).

It could be nasty text messages or emails, or setting up a hate group on a social networking site.

What can I do if My Child is Being Bullied Online?
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) website, Thinkuknow provides the following advice for parents:

  • Offer reassurance and support
    Your child may need emotional support or feel like they have nowhere to turn. It’s rare that cyberbullying is only taking place online and is often someone your child knows through school or a group they attend. Their school should have policies and procedures for dealing with cyberbullying. Your child could visit Beat Bullying. This is an online counselling service with a difference; the counsellors are also children and young people. This site has proved very popular and offers practical advice. Childlinealso have a dedicated page for children and young people.
  • Keep the evidence
    Whether it’s a text message or email, tell kids not to reply to the bully or delete the comments. Ask your child if they know the bully or where the messages are coming from. It it’s someone at school it can often be dealt with quickly and effectively with assistance from the school.
  • Block the bullies
    If someone is bullying your child on a social networking or chat site encourage them to block or delete the individual so that they can’t be contacted by them anymore.
  • Report any bullying content to the website it’s hosted on
    If content has been posted, for example a video or image, which is upsetting your child you should report it to the website, for example, Facebook. Learn how you would report content on sites like Facebook and YouTube; every site is different. Contacting the website is the only way to get the offensive content removed, unless it is illegal. In cases of illegal content for example indecent images or videos of young people under 18, contact your local police or report it to CEOP.

Internet security for parentsStep 3 – Here’s how to avoid losing control of their pictures

Did you know?  60% of young people have been asked for a sexual video or image.

The most important message to talk about with  children and young people is that once an image is online, it’s really difficult to get it off again.  So if in doubt, don’t post, or don’t take the picture in the first place.

Even when an image has been deleted from Facebook or Twitter, for example, it can already have been shared and posted by all their friends. Find out more about how social media works.

An issue of growing concern for young people is sexting, which is about sending sexually suggestive or explicit messages/photographs, often between mobile phones to friends.

What the law says:
Taking, holding or sharing “indecent” materials is an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.


Internet security for parentsStep 4 – Here’s how to find out what your child is doing online

Did you know? 93% of 5-15 year olds in the UK used the internet in 2013.

Your child could be socialisinggamingtalking to people, sharing or searching online. These are risks you can help your child navigate.

Remember they don’t have to be on a computer to be online. Almost anything connected to the internet like games consoles, music players, tablets and phones allows them to take risks.

Did you know? 67% of 12-17 year olds play online games with people they don’t know.

Find out more about the things children do online at the ThinkUKnow website and how to talk to your child about them.

Kidscape has also produced a Family Online Safety Guide which has lots of helpful information about the risks of using the internet and how to keep your family safe.


Internet security for parentsStep 5 – Here’s how to take control of your child’s activities

Did you know? 60% of 8-11 year olds have bought something online or asked others to do so on their behalf.

It’s important to put parental controls on your computer, laptop, tablet etc to make sure that they don’t access inappropriate material or buy things without your permission.

Some children can also become addicted to their online life and distracted from school, seeing their friends or taking part in fun activities.  Sometimes they find it difficult to stop. Find out more about online addiction.

As well as talking to your child you can also take advantage of free and low cost tools:


Internet security for parentsStep 6 – Here’s how to avoid viruses

Most of us know the danger of online scams and viruses, but it’s not always obvious to children and young people.

Make sure you’ve got virus protection and remind your kids not to turn it off even if they think it will speed up their game – it’s just not worth it.

There are many types of virus to be aware of, find out more about preventing them and what protection you need.

Downloading music and filesharing can seem like fun but also leaves you open to viruses, as well as often being illegal. Get Safe online explains the risk and what you can to do stay safe.

It’s also vital to help your child choose a safe password, one that no-one will guess and talk to them about how important it is not to share it, even with best friends.