Keeping our kids safe is not a small task
When my eldest daughter was just five years old, and in year one at school, we discovered that she was being bullied by two boys in her class. It was a horrible time, and stirred up many emotions from when the dreaded B word ruled my own life.
I moved around a lot when I was a kid, and by the time I left home I’d had over a dozen addresses. I feel this made me an easy target for bullies, and towards the end of my school career, I had suffered horrendously because of them. My confidence was non-existent and I was suicidal. At my very lowest ebb, I took an overdose of painkillers. It was a classic cry for help, but fate took a different turn. Shortly afterwards, an incident with my stepfather was to be the catalyst for me emerging into adulthood at 15.
I had it rough, there is no denying it, but I grew up in a different era. I didn’t even get my first mobile phone until I was sixteen. The school yard bullies only had a small window of opportunity to do their thing.
The reality of growing up in a digital age
My husband and I home educate our children, and we limit screen time to a couple of hours a day. It’s easy to keep the kids safe when they’re small and just watching television, but it gets trickier as they get older, and especially once they have their own devices and want to go online. Polly’s had a tablet for almost a year now, and she plays basic games and has kids apps on it, but we haven’t yet enabled the browser.
She does go online on my laptop though, mostly to look for recipe videos or TV shows on YouTube. At eight she is very vulnerable, not to mention naive. Just last week she called me upstairs to tell me that she had won an iPhone. I have no idea what she clicked on to get to that screen, and fortunately I managed to intercept the computer before she started clicking on the download, otherwise who knows what would have happened.
It ended up being a good opportunity to have a chat about how sometimes things on the internet are not what they seem. She was really confused, and just didn’t understand why something would pop up on the screen telling her lies. It’s made me realise that she needs a super careful eye watched over her, because you never know what’s lurking beyond those clicks.
How to keep our kids safe online
I used to hope that by the time my children wanted to go online independently it wouldn’t feel as scary for me. To be honest though, it feels scarier now than ever before. Between social media, gaming, and endless apps being released, there are numerous ways for predators to access our kids. So far I’ve managed to dodge the apps with online ‘friends’ bullet, but I know we won’t be able to indefinitely. It’s an absolute minefield, which is why I’ve installed adaptive security on all our devices.
Kaspersky Security Cloud is a great example of this type of software. It defends your devices from viruses, Trojans, worms and phishing, among other things. Using cloud-based technologies, their security is faster, which means it doesn’t add strain and extra loading times, or take up valuable space. It also has a built-in Security Adviser, which behaves like your personal security expert and automatically warns you about new and relevant threats. It will lock out identity thieves when connecting to a public network, and help to ensure data and messages aren’t falling into the wrong hands.
The biggest music to my ears is that it protects the entire family, as Kaspersky constantly seeks new ways to protect children when they are exploring the world online. Parents and guardians can enable specific security features to keep an eye on their children via their own mobiles and computers. There is advice for parents built into the app to help them help their children learn and understand why some content isn’t appropriate. It also warns the parents if a child tries to disable the app.
Online before their time?
According to the latest Net Aware survey, a whopping two thirds of children admitted to using apps while under the age limit. Most social media sites have a minimum age of 13, but a lot of children have accounts from nine or ten. My personal stance on this is that the age limits protect our kids, and should be adhered to. Perhaps it’s because social media is such a huge part of my own work, but knowing what I do, I’ll put off allowing accounts for as long as possible.
Ultimately, the best way to keep our kids safe when they go online, is for them to fully understand the potential dangers of doing so. That’s not to say that we should be scaring them senseless with tales of the bogeyman, but they should be wise enough to know not to accept friend requests from people who aren’t their friends.
Some people ask their children for passwords to their social media accounts, or have a rule that they have to be friends with them. Honestly though, I don’t think this is enough. I’ve heard too many stories whereby the child has a dummy account with a handful of actual friends, and their parents, then sets up a second account with hundreds of randoms they might or might not know.
There is much for my husband and I to consider to ensure that we stay one step ahead of the game
Although we have a couple more years to fine tune our strategy, safety awareness will definitely be high up on the agenda.
We’ll be encouraging them to be completely open and honest about their online usage. As nice an idea as it might seem to give them full control and trust their decision making, I think in reality, they will need our guidance until they are well into their teen years.
Meanwhile we’ll continue doing our very best to ensure that we equip them with the resources they need to cope with this crazy world.
A place that can feel so cruel and unjust at times.
**Disclaimer: this is a collaborative piece, for my full disclosure policy please click here.**