UK children typically have their first phone by the age of seven, a tablet by the time they’re eight, and a smartphone before they’re ten, according to a study by Opinium. This isn’t too surprising, considering how increasingly connected we all are. However, there are risks associated with allowing your children to spend time online and it is important that you address them.
Here, we outline three of the most prominent dangers and how to deal with them before you give your children their own devices.
The term ‘cyberbullying’ refers to bullying that’s carried out through electronic channels. This includes text, online messaging and social media websites. As more young people are being given their own devices, it is becoming an increasingly common problem. 70% of school-age children frequently witness cyberbullying, according to DoSomething.org. However, it has also been found that only 1 in 10 victims of this abuse report it to a trusted adult.
Therefore, it is important that you speak to your children about the dangers of being bullied online and let them know that they can come to you if anyone ever upsets them.
If you find or suspect that your child is being cyberbullied and would like some guidance, Family Lives is a great organisation that can provide lots of important information and help with cyberbullying.
It’s relatively easy for children to stumble across inappropriate content online, whether it’s by accident or through curiosity. Pornography, material that endorses violence and dangerous advice, which encourages the likes of eating disorders and self-harm, are scattered across the internet. Therefore, it’s important you take steps to protect your children from this.
David Brock, Managing Director of tech insurance company LetUsFixIT, says: “You have a lot of options when choosing how to shield your children from unsuitable content. Of course, the most reliable way is to monitor their online activity. But, depending on your circumstances and how old they are, this may be unfeasible or even unethical. Fortunately, there are some tools out there that can do the filtering for you”.
“Both your internet router and children’s devices should have parental controls that you can activate, which is a great place to start. You can also point your kids in the direction of search engines that have been designed for a younger audience, like KidsClick and Kiddle. Additionally, platforms like YouTube and Netflix, come with their own parental controls. So, if you know that your children use these frequently, it’s worth setting those up, too. All of this will make it much more difficult for mature or inappropriate content to reach your family’s devices.”
Unfortunately, even when you take all of these precautions, some things can slip through the net. If you’re concerned that your child has accessed illegal material, you can report it to your internet provider, as well as the Internet Watch Foundation.
Grooming is when someone tries to forge a bond with a child to exploit or abuse them. This is particularly prevalent online, as groomers can find potential victims on social media websites and forums that are based upon young people’s interests.
Again, you need to warn your children about the dangers of this happening. You should speak to them in an open and understanding manner, so they feel like they can come to you if they’re ever made to feel upset or uncomfortable by someone online.
If you have reason to believe that your child is the victim of grooming, you can call the NSPCC for guidance on 0808 800 5000.
Getting their own phone, tablet or computer should be an exciting time for your child — they’re getting a window to a world they’ve never had before. But, it’s important that you ensure they’re safe. By taking these precautions and resolving problems quickly, you’ll dramatically reduce the risks that they face.
For more information, guidance and help, please visit the following websites:
Internet Watch Foundation www.iwf.org.uk
Family Lives www.familylives.org.uk