I've talked before on here about Alf's love for his tablet and how I don't necessarily think screen time is a bad thing, as long as we try to keep them safe and limit what they can access.
Soph is now enjoying some tablet time too and as Alf gets older and more confident with technology than most adults already at the age of five, there is the ever increasing worry of what he may stumble across things that might not be so suitable for his age. As we all know, the Internet is packed with good as well as evil, unfortunately swarmed by people with ill intent. It's a scary world out there and unfortunately far too easy to fall into the wrong hands, or in this case the hands of our children.
The age for a child to own their own phone or tablet seems to be getting younger and younger right now, with the average age for a child to use a tablet on a daily basis currently being just five years old. This means that children may be experiencing the Internet and apps often before adults really have a chance check it out first. If you allow your child to use a tablet or any other device unsupervised, which I'm sure most of us do, it’s important to set up some safety precautions before hand. It’s pretty scary business to think that your child could be contacted by a complete stranger, bullied online or subjected to content that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared. Here are a few tips for keeping them safe online, just as we would in the real world.
Most children learn to use a tablet or smart phone before they learn to read and write now, as it’s often easier for them to connect shapes, colours and symbols on a tablet, not to mention feeling more fun for them. Our children are growing up in an age where the Internet is the norm and a major part of life now and in the future.
When your children are using the Internet, make sure they’re doing it around you when possible, rather than away from view in their own bedrooms. Encourage your children to tell you if something unusual happens, like a friend request from a stranger or seeing something upsetting. Don’t allow your children to download apps without asking your permission first and set a time limit on how long they’re allowed to be on the Internet each evening.
The Internet is an amazing resource for all of us and often needed (or required) for modern homework, so it's pretty unrealistic and unfair to reduce use too much, but there's still plenty we can do to keep them safe while we can. Often, giving them a little more freedom but setting these rules so they can confidently talk to you with any worries works far better than being overly restrictive.
The majority of parents worry about their children using social media sites, when in fact, online gaming can be much more dangerous. Recent findings have shown that children can be contacted by strangers via apps and older children are more likely to meet fellow online gamers in person, scary stuff right?
You can monitor younger children and their game play, by doing research into the apps they want to use before downloading them. You should be able to find reviews from other parents easily on apps, like this Safe Kids App. If there is something to worry about you can bet that parents will want to shout about it, we all want the best for our kids.
Older children using online gaming need to know the warning signs for a dangerous game. They should never ever give out personal information and they shouldn’t do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. Ensure they are completely aware of this before picking up that controller and are confident to speak to you with any concerns.
Although Facebook recommends that users must be no younger than thirteen years old, children from as young as nine have been known to set up accounts. Part of me likes to think that I'd never let mine do that, but knowing other 9/10 year olds, they really feel grown up and it sadly seems to be the norm nowadays.
If your child is using social media, you’re restricted to how much say you have over what they can and cannot see. When I think of some of the horrific things that often pop up on my feed, the thought of the kids being open to all that in just a few years is pretty terrifying.
Advise your child to limit the number of friends on their profiles and never accept requests from strangers. It’s also important they tell you if a stranger attempts to contact them, regardless of what the message says. There are a few things you can do though such as adjusting profile settings on Facebook for example, blocking certain individuals or apps, making sure no information is on offer to anyone but friends. To a certain extent you do have to trust that your children are doing the right thing and give them that bit of freedom they crave, but at the same time having those conversations to make sure they are confident and happy to talk to you about anything and everything.
Keeping your child safe online won’t always be easy, but if you keep the lines of communication open, limit things where you can and allow just the right amount of screen time, then you are doing the best you can. It's completely unrealistic to keep them clear of everything we'd rather they didn't see or hear, but also pretty impossible to completely avoid.
Do your kids enjoy using the Internet? If so, do you have any further tips to help keep them safe? Please leave me a comment below if you do, you never know what just may help another parent somewhere.