*This is a commissioned post
The world that my children are growing up in is very different to the one that I grew up in. Computers were only for playing games on and mobiles, as we know them today, were not invented. Even though I live my life on the internet, it doesn’t mean that I don’t worry about what the future holds for my girls.
Alice already asks me how old she has to be before she can have a ‘real’ phone of her own. I of course at the moment reply for your 13th birthday. But in all honesty, I don’t know what that answer will be. When will I feel comfortable with her having a phone?
For safety reasons and Alice being able to call me at any time or the reverse, and me being able to contact her, I would give her one right now. But having a mobile phone means a lot more than that.
It gives her access to a whole new world, the internet!
Children go online for lots of different reasons. To connect with friends, make new ones, play games and to share images. But as much as I wish there weren’t, there are risks.
4% of 8-11 year old’s and 15% of 12-15 year old’s say they chat with people they don’t know when playing games online (Ofcom, 2015). Whilst most of these friendships will be harmless and genuine, it’s important that our children know how to protect themselves and the information they are putting out there.
How Can We Make Sure Our Children Are Mobile Safe At School?
I know the time will come sooner than I would like to think that Alice will have her own mobile phone and there are a few things that as parents we can do…
- Talk – Have a conversation with your child. Ask them to show what their favourite things to do online and explore them together. Show them that you are open about what they do on their phone, but that you have ground rules. Talk to them about staying safe and that if they are ever worried about anything to talk to you.
- Explore – Look at the apps, sites and social platforms that your children are going onto. There is a site checker that tells you if a site is suitable for someone under 18 years old. The more you know what your children are doing, the easier it is for you to keep them safe.
- Security – I’m sure if you have a laptop or MacBook, you may already have security installed, but it’s important to look for security that covers protecting your children. There are security systems like Kaspersky Security Cloud which can cover both your own and your children’s devices. Kaspersky allows you to regulate your children’s use of apps and offers the ability to check your children’s location, which is great when they are travelling to and from school, or when they are out and about with friends.
- Ground Rules – Talk to them about the websites and apps that you are happy for them to use. It’s important for them to realise that their behaviour online, should remain the same as when they are offline. Lead by example. They will notice your own behaviours!
- Controls – Learn about parental controls. Most sites and home wifi networks have parental controls in the settings. Ensure that location settings are switched off, to make sure they don’t give away their location to someone without realising it. If they are on social media take a look at their profile, their privacy settings to check what people can see from the information they share.
- Time – Set an amount of time that they are allowed on there each day. There is software available where you can see how much time they have spent on a device and you can set a limit to how long they are online.
As the world of technology and the internet move on, and at a fast rate. I think it’s important that as parents we try to keep up with modern technology and learn about the platforms that our children are using. I know at the moment teenagers are all about Snapchat and I’ll be honest I don’t know that much about it. But if my children were using it, then I would learn it, every single part of it. Because then I can spot the potential risks and dangers.
By the time my girls are at this point there will no doubt be something new by then. I also know that it doesn’t matter how many parental controls you put in place, or settings you have. This is no guaranteed way to stop our children seeing inappropriate things, but it is our job to teach them how to use the internet in a sensible way.
As much as we want our children to remain innocent, away from the wider world, we all know in our heart of hearts that there will come a time when we have to open the doors and let them see the world that we live. Technology, mobiles and the internet are a big part of that.
I know that I would rather be holding that door handle with my daughters as we open it together, than for them to do it on their own.
Along with everything in life, I want my children to know that whatever they do, whatever comes across their path, I am here for them, that we can solve any problem together. Nothing cannot be resolved. This will apply to anything that happens on the internet, on their phones too.
At the heart of it all will be open and honest communication between us.