Looking back, it seemed that when I was a little girl ‘safety’ was a word that was mainly applied to crossing the road, stranger danger and kids being in the kitchen. Computers were just beginning to take off and the internet was unheard of. These days are very different. Children are growing up in an internet age, and using computers, laptops and tablets bring a very specific set of threats and dangers that parents have to be aware of, and in control of.
We want our children to be able to use and enjoy the web, our every day life is a mass of computer technology, and kids get so much fun and knowledge from computers, whether they are playing games or using them to research school projects. With all this in mind, Internet Matters has produced a range of guides, from pre-school to teenagers, that are designed to help you understand how you can ensure your children is using the internet safely.
I have been using the guide for 6-10 year olds because I have a six year old boy who loves to use the computer for different things. He likes to play online, free football games, and he knows how to use search engines to find these – but I often find lots of windows open that have nothing to do with football. He enjoys You Tube for watching Minions trailers, but again, I worry about other things he can find on You Tube. And he has also recently become familiar with I-Player for watching Match of the Day reruns. Clearly all these things can be safe, but need to be monitored.
I am pleased to say that some of the things suggested in the guide are things that I am already doing. Our computers (laptop and tablet) are only used in communal areas – the living and dining room, so I can see exactly what Joe is playing on. To be honest, I’m usually sitting in the seat beside him, and we chat about the games and programmes he accesses. It is shocking that according to research from Internet Matters, some parents never chat about their child’s internet experiences.
I try to use safe search engines on Google, but am sad to say I’d never heard of search engines like Swiggle or Kids-Search which are child friendly search engines. These stop children accessing inappropriate, nasty content like pornography, violence and films and content meant for adults.
A final point that Internet Matters makes clear is the need to make sure all content accessed is age appropriate – just like you would with movies and dvds. Children under 13 should not be on Facebook, and even games that are suitable for under 10s, like Club Penguin, have an online social element that means it should not really be played unsupervised.
The Internet Matters guides are full of hints and tips for keeping your youngsters safe online. There are also guides that delve into areas of cyber bullying and online grooming that can affect older children and teens.
Well worth a look for anyone with a child.