Cyber Safety

Cyber Safety

Nine in ten children under ten-years-old go online.

Christmas is now slowly turning into a distant memory, the turkey’s been eaten, the presents unwrapped, and here we are back in the mundane routine of work.

Just a few weeks ago, more and more children and teenagers were given technological devices as their Christmas presents. Statistics show that 43% of twelve to fifteen-year-olds now own a tablet. This leads to a question…

What are the issues surrounding children using these devices?

With the advent of these devices being more and more accessible, social media and applications (apps) have become even more accessible, and in today’s world you’re perceived by some people as being a ‘nobody’ if you haven’t got the latest hot gadget, thus the beginning of the bullying culture. This in itself starts the issue of how safe and secure are our children.

Children went back to school, and would have excitedly been telling their friends of the joys that were to be found under the tree, that is all but the children whose families are struggling to make ends meet and provided their children with the best presents that they could afford and rightfully didn’t go to the extremes. These families will have provided their children with the best Christmas they could and of course the most important thing that they could give their children was love. Their children obviously haven’t got the latest hi-tech, all singing flashy device. This is how they become the target of the bullying, yet a valuable lesson could be learnt by the bullies, in that we are all different.

Bullying is another subject where technology has changed the world. In my day at school, should you be the ‘victim’ of the bullies, you would go home, close your front door and leave the bullies outside and forget about them until the following morning. Sadly, this is not the case in this ever-changing, fast-paced technology world. Now, all the bullies need are your mobile number or profile handle. You are always connected to the outside world and thus the bullies. Meaning the bullies can now get into the inner sanctum that was once safe.

Of course, we know that bullying has always been a problem in schools.

Social media, whilst it can be a tool for good, has in itself started further complications and issues for the world of early teenagers and children.

One of the ‘joys’ that most users of social media enjoy is the opportunity to share photographs with their friends or ‘followers’ of events that they are enjoying in life and special occasions they are celebrating. However, there are many occasions over recent years of the new phenomenon of children sending each other photographs in varying degrees of undress.

Did you know?

The average twelve to fifteen-year-old has
272 social media friends.

The Issues

There are several issues with this.

One such issue is that once something has been uploaded to the internet it is almost impossible to get rid of it; if it is possible to get rid of, it can be a painstaking process to get the site in question to remove the content. Just pressing the delete button is not enough, as it will remain on a server somewhere, or potentially another user somewhere has saved the image to their own computer, this is not something that can be traced and therefore who knows how many copies of the photograph exist.

Another issue, comes in later life when that child/teenager goes for a job interview and the employer does a search on the search engines, does that photograph show up and then what impression does the potential interviewer have of that person?

And more so than all of that there is the legal position of a child, also known as a minor, sharing photographs of themselves in various degrees of undress, it is a criminal offence for children under the age of 18 to send indecent photographs. There have been several stories in the news of children potentially being prosecuted for doing just that.

60% of teens have been asked for a sexual image or video of themselves!

Finally, on the subject of sending indecent photographs to other people on the internet, does the sender actually know who the receiver is? Even if s/he claims to be the same age as the sender, they could of course be an older person.

There are other concerns on the use of the internet, social media and children. There are many websites and apps that portray positive images of self-harm. This can be quite reassuring in some respects for people who are feeling that this is the way to deal with the emotional distress that they are feeling, however on the flip side of this is the aspect that it encourages children to self-harm and moreover actively encourages children to do this.

Events of the last eighteen months or so have also shown how the internet can be used for harm. The harm is caused when the internet and social media is used to radicalise people into many extreme idealisms. Most famously radicalisation has manifested itself in the UK with extreme situation attacks on the general public, possibly most notably in the last year at the Ariana Grande Concert in Manchester on May 22nd. This attack in itself has proved that not even the innocence of youth is now safe from being attacked from people who wish to do harm.

Of course, the kind of harm that we are discussing above is not the only type of harm that can be found if the ‘dark-web’ is searched thoroughly enough. Information can be found on lots of subjects, and can be used to help radicalise people to that way of thinking including on topics like, animal rights, the fur trade and of course information can be found on how to make devices that are able to cause significant harm to members of the general public.

No look into the internet, and issues around children accessing the web, would be complete without mentioning the easy access to pornographic material children have these days. Sometimes, children will access it totally by accident when searching innocently for something else on search engines, or sometimes they are told about these sites by their peers and then actively seek them out. In some respects, a report that came from the Houses of Parliament on Monday last week shows how easy it is to access this type of material. A study released last Monday stated that 24,473 attempts were made on the House of Parliament servers to access pornographic sites, which represents some 160 attempts in a day. The report stresses that these are only attempts to access and not actual visits to the sites. The report also stresses that the majority of these attempts are not deliberate. The number of attempts were for the period of June to October last year, and is down from the previous records. The reason we compare it is the wording in the report that mentions accessing such material as non-deliberate, which links to the fact that a lot of children accessing the material will absolutely be by accident.

Another use of the internet amongst children, especially girls, is the fretting about what people think of them, there are many apps and apps within apps that allow people to rate how someone looks in their pictures. One of the questions asked on some apps, is whether the person is Hot or Not, which in itself is a very vain outlook. The girls who use these sites are actively looking for approval and votes of hot. A common sense survey called Children, Teens, Media and Body identified this very issue. The findings show 35% are worried that people will tag them in unflattering photos, 27% are worried about how they look in photos and 22% of children feel bad about themselves if their photos are ignored. This just shows us that this is a worrying trend setting into the real world because of the cyber world.

What are children’s thoughts on how safe they are?

In 2017, a survey was carried out by the NSPCC and O2 which found that four out of five children who were polled felt that social media and website owners did not go far enough to protect them from self-harm, pornography, hatred and bullying. The study shows that children feel that the sites’ lack of strict controls exposes them to hurtful comments and makes them feel negative about themselves and even think about self-harm.

How much time are children spending on the internet?

26% of children aged ten to thirteen-years-old use internet for more than three hours or more a day. Whereas of all children of all ages who use the internet, 47% of parents worry about how much time their children are spending online.

How safe are our children when using these devices?

The simple answer to this question is that they can be fully safe with some very simple steps to be taken by their parents/carers.

Firstly, we need to look at what social media sites like Facebook say about children joining their sites, the age they say is acceptable for children to be on their site is thirteen. We know that children only have to lie about their date of birth in order to be accepted on the site. One in four children who are aged between eleven and twelve and are on social media say they have had an upsetting experience on it!

Lets look at things that parents can do to best support their children online, these will depend on the age of the child.

For children aged under five the following advice would be suitable for them:

Use Passwords

By using passwords on all your internet connected devices, you then need to unlock them and provide access to children, knowing exactly when and where children are online, also passwords ensure no unexpected purchases by little children.

Manage Access

Provide children with their own account on the computer, whereby setting up their own allowed access, and set their internet home page to a child-friendly page for example, CBeebies.

Help them to learn through games

Choose good quality child-friendly games online from companies that you trust; this could include Nick Jr or Disney Jr.

Set Boundaries

It is never too early to set boundaries, it is important the child has ground rules of what they are allowed to do whilst online and also how long they are able to spend online.

As the child gets older the safety measures will change slightly, next we consider what you could do for a child aged between six and ten years old.

Use Airplane Mode

Using Airplane mode will ensure that children are unable to make additional purchases on the devices as well as interact with anyone online without your knowledge.

Talk to older siblings

It is always good to include older siblings in the safety of their younger siblings, by having conversations with older siblings you are giving them some responsibility and showing that you trust and respect them. As well as discussing their use with them, remember to discuss with them what they show to the younger members of the family and encourage them to look out for their younger siblings.

Agree boundaries

Boundaries are just as important in the cyber world as they are in the real world. Firstly, your child may be asking for a mobile telephone of their own as well as a tablet, however it is the parents’ responsibility and decision when the child is ready for this. You may wish to discuss with your child when you believe is a suitable age for them to own their own devices.

Other boundaries to be discussed include the types of sites and content they are allowed to view as well as the length of time they are allowed to access the internet; some families have a ‘no devices’ at the dining table rule.

For children below the age of ten, in addition to the ideas we have discussed above, it may be prudent to ensure that the following advice is heeded.

Search Safely

It is important to make sure that children are searching the internet safely, one way to do this is by using child-friendly search engines for example Swiggle or Kids-search. As well as remembering to use the safe search facilities on other search engines and websites like Google and Youtube.

Explore together

One of the best ways to know what your children are doing online is to encourage the children to show you what sites they like to visit as well as what games they like to play while they are online. While exploring the internet with the children you can discuss what a good online friend is.

As children move on up past their tenth birthday, but still not older than the age to enter the ‘Facebook World’, there are additional tips that parents could consider as follows:

Have frank discussions

It is a good idea to prepare children for situations that they may come up against whilst using the internet, as well as providing them with the tools for what to do should things make them uncomfortable or worry about certain aspects. Generally, it is a good idea to empower them to turn to you should they experience something they do not like or want online; this will ensure that they won’t be worried about you finding something that they accidently clicked on that they know you wouldn’t approve of, and instead be open enough to tell you about their accident. A good time to have these frank discussions is when the child gets a new device or starts to visit new websites.

Manage their devices

Encourage your children to be using their technological devices in communal rooms in the house for example the lounge or dining room, thus being able to keep an eye on what they are doing. Allow them their own account on the family computer, giving them their independence, and obviously if you do not feel they are old enough or ready for their own devices, explain your reasoning but stay firm.

Have an agreement

Keep an agreement with the child as to how much internet access they can have, times that they are allowed to access the online world, where they must be within the household when they are on their devices as well as the types of websites and content they are allowed to view. Remember that you may need to review this agreement as they continue to grow and gain more independence.

Start social media discussions early

Before you allow children to join social media sites, it is a good idea to discuss with the children the advantages and the risks of using these sites. It is a particularly good idea to explain to the children how difficult it is to have any material they upload to be removed and how it may resurface in years to come.

For all children under the age of thirteen it is a good idea to put yourself in control.

A good way to be in control is to ensure that you have set parental controls on the household broadband connector, and all devices including mobile telephones, games consoles and tablets. As well as implementing safe search on search engines and websites and services like Youtube and iTunes.

Between the ages of ten and sixteen some good advice tips include the following things:

Stay safe on the move

On their mobile telephones and tablets safe settings should be set, however as responsible parents you have to bear in mind that connecting onto some public access WiFi networks, they may not have filters on to block inappropriate content from your children’s devices. While out and about you should look out for signs that indicate safe networks that have filters to block content for example Mumsnet Family-Friendly WiFi and RDI-Friendly.

Keep private details private

Remind children who are posting images to social media to ensure that they are keeping their settings to private, allowing only their friends to search, tag and comment on their posts.

Additional advice for children who are turning fourteen and above includes:

Be responsible

It is a good idea to remind children to behave in the cyber world as they would in the real world, remembering that if they wouldn’t be unkind to their friends to their face, then why would they want to be unkind through a screen. Empower your growing teenager to have respect for themselves as well as others whilst they are on the internet.

Discuss online reputations

Start their experience online thinking about creating a digital footprint that they would be proud of. A good rule of thumb is to keep them thinking about whether what they post they would want you, their teacher or a future suitor/employer to see. Parents need to keep reminding their children that once something has been uploaded or written it is there for all to see, potentially you could use the experiences of celebrities who posted things before they were famous and how they have come to haunt them in their life now they are famous.

Adjust controls

As the child grows up you may need to review and amend the parental controls that you have set up for your children, the best way to do this is to decide how mature you believe your child to be, and then discuss with them the level of controls you feel they need and then listen to their ideas and come to a mutual agreement whilst maintaining the control.

Show that you trust your child

There will come a time when children will get to a stage when they will want to purchase content from available services online, for example iTunes or Google Play. If this is something that you can afford and you believe your child to be mature enough for a small allowance, you may consider allowing them to do this.

Don’t give in

Remind children that they are in control of themselves and just like in the real world, they do not have to do anything that they feel is inappropriate or you as the parent would not want them to do. Just like the real world they must not give in to peer pressure and should they be pressured into something they could discuss it with you or another trusted adult. You could also signpost them to apps like Send this Instead and/or Zipit, which will help them to deal with requests they are unhappy to fulfil.

For children of all ages there are other good tips that could be followed:

Check if the content is age suitable

A good way to check if the content your children is accessing is suitable is to take note of the age guidance on each product, much like you would if you were to take the children to buy a DVD in the shop. Remember that social media sites like Facebook state thirteen or older is the age to join.

Be involved

The area where the children are using the technology can be very important to remain involved in their cyber world experience, for example the children being in a communal area like the lounge or dining room, it may be that you are not sitting over the child but you are able to be involved and interested as you walk past them to do other chores.

One of the best ways to know what your children are doing in the cyber world is to ensure that you keep talking to them and stay interested in their online activities. Don’t be afraid to bring up challenging issues like sexting, pornography and cyberbullying. It could be embarrassing, but you’ll both benefit from the subjects being out in the open.

Finally, we would highly recommend that one of the rules of the children being allowed their own social media profiles, is that they have to have you as a friend on the site. This will allow you to be able to see all that they share and then you are able to pick up on anything that they may be sharing that you don’t approve of, or think is inappropriate, or that they may regret in future life, meaning that you are able to discuss these things openly as they arrive rather than when someone tells you about it later on.

The last thing that we thought we would do while talking about children’s safety is to give you a quick guide to some of the abbreviations that are being used online by children, however, please bear in mind that these are regularly changing and you should discuss any ‘codes’ you see with your children that you are unfamiliar with.

The ‘Code’

143 I Love You
182 I hate you
420 Marijuana
2Day Today
4EAE For ever and ever
ADN Any day now
ADR Address
AFAIK As far as I know
AFK Away from keyboard
ASL Age/sex/location
ATM At the moment
BFN Bye for now
BOL Be on later
BRB Be right back
BTW By the way
CD9 Code 9
(It means parents are around)
CTN Can’t talk now
DWBH Don’t worry, be happy
F2F/FTF Face to face
FWB Friends with benefits
FYEO For your eyes only
GAL Get a life
GB Goodbye
GLHF Good luck, have fun
GTG Got to go
GYPO Get your pants off
HAK Hugs and kisses
HAND Have a nice day
HTH Hope this helps/Happy to help
HW Homework
IDK I don’t know
IIRC If I remember correctly
IKR I know, right?
ILY/ILU I love you
IM Instant message
IMHO In my honest opinion/In my humble opinion
IMO In my opinion
IRL In real life
IWSN I want sex now
IU2U It’s up to you
IYKWIM If you know what I mean
J/K Just kidding
J4F Just for fun
JIC Just in case
JSYK Just so you know
KFY Kiss for you
KOTL Kiss on the lips
KPC Keeping parents clueless
L8 Late
L8r Later
LMBO/LMAO Laughing my butt off
LMIRL Let’s meet in real life
LMK Let me know
LOL Laugh out loud
LSR Loser
MIRL Meet in real life
MOS Mum over shoulder
NAGI Not a good idea
NIFOC Nude in front of computer
NM Never mind
NMU Not much, you?
NP No Problem
NTS Note to self
OIC Oh I see
OMG Oh my God
ORLY Oh, really?
OT Off topic
OTP On the phone
P911/P999 Parent alert
PAL Parents are listening/Peace and love
PAW Parents are watching
PCM Please call me
PIR Parent in room
PLS/PLZ Please
PPL People
POS Parent over shoulder
PTB Please text back
QQ Crying
(this abbreviation produces an emoticon in text)
RAK Random act of kindness
RL Real life
ROFL Roll on the floor laughing
RT Retweet
RU18 Are you over 18?
RUOK Are you okay?
SMH Shaking my head
SOS Someone over shoulder
SRSLY Seriously
SSDD Same stuff, different day
SWAK Sealed with a kiss
SWYP So, what’s your problem?
SYS See you soon
TBC To be confirmed
TDTM Talk dirty to me
TIME Tears in my eyes
TMI Too much information
TMRW Tomorrow
TTYL Talk to you later
TY/TU Thank you
VSF Very sad face
WB Welcome back
WTH What the heck
WTPA Where’s the party at?
WYCM Will you call me?
WYRM What’s your real name?
YGM You’ve got mail
YOLO You only live once
YW You’re Welcome
ZOMG Oh my God (sarcastic)

We hope that this month’s blog article allows you and your children to remain safe online and has helped with some good advice to continue your child’s online activity and reduce the amount of worry that a parent has with their children spending more and more time in the cyber world.

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