Parents And Children Need To Watch This. Safety Online

Parents And Children Need To Watch This. Safety Online

Video from The Child Exploitation & Online Protection Agency.

” CEOPs Thinkuknow education programme that helps children to understand what constitutes personal information. The assembly enables children to understand that they need to be just as protective of their personal information online, as they are in the real world. It also directs where to go and what to do if children are worried about any of the issues covered.”

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Today I was alerted to this video doing the rounds on Facebook, I do think parents and kids should watch it, it certainly might open a few eyes.

I think this cyber safety film from CEOPS  is a valiant attempt to get parents and kids to understand they need to take as much care with their online safety as they do with their offline safety. This film may be a wake up call for some. But whilst there are some very good points made in this film, I’m concerned about part of it’s message, that I, and many other parents who commented on Facebook interpreted as “its ok for a 10 year old to be on a Facebook Like social media site, as long as they do it safely”. My concern with this harm minimisation approach is this…

Parents, your child is as only safe online as their friends are.

Whilst this film sends a strong positive message about not over sharing and friending strangers, and setting privacy settings. Children who are underage on social media with all the best will in the world still have to rely on their friends to also have strict privacy settings, a small group of real life friends and good judgement. Because as soon as one of your child’s friends click “Like” or comment on your childs post, it will be reposted out to their entire friends list. Lets hope that your child’s friends haven’t friended any strangers, that your child’s friends also protect and hide their friends lists, hide their posts and pictures from the public, and that they don’t share your child’s posts after making a nasty comment on it, or changing posts or pictures with photoshop type software.

Socialising Is Hard!

Kids find it hard enough to negotiate the complex social issues in real life, why allow them to be part of Adult/Teen online communities before they are mature enough to deal with the larger public repercussions of online exposure that social media encourages. Is peer group pressure enough of a reason to take this very real risk to their well being?

If You Ban Them They Will Hide It And Do It Anyway!

Understand I’m not talking about banning them from communicating through the internet or banning technology, I’m talking about taking it slowly and using software design for kids or at least safe for kids. I keep seeing this statement everywhere from well meaning parents, kids and other “experts”  “Don’t Ban it you’ll make it more attractive and they will do it anyway and hide it”. Banning children from joining adult/Teen social networks doesn’t mean they will automatically cheat if you plan and set up your strategies right. If we parents thought that we couldn’t ban anything for our child because they will be sure to do it anyway… then lets just give up. Yup they can drink, swear, hit each other, smoke, have sex and watch porn. No boundaries, because they will only do it anyway. I think we need to give kids a bit more credit, some of them actually do have more common sense than some people would give them credit for. As Parents its our job to help them understand why we give them boundaries, though consequences rewards and guidance.

What’s The Pay Off For Parents?

I worry that not banning a child from adult/teen 13+social media if underage or encouraging underage participation in social media says more about the parents misunderstanding of how social media works, the sharing, the commenting, the lack of privacy. I also worry that it might be more about  the parents desire for a quiet life, or because they are truly concerned that their child will be left behind or ostracised. If more parents understood exposure online through sharing, and understood that not being on adult/teen social media isn’t a real life social death, then less kids underage would feel pressure to be on it.

Yes, I’m Probably Dreaming…

Stay with me here…What If….all the parents at one primary school actually agreed to try something safer for everyone. They unitedly said ok, we are all taking you off Facebook, Kik Messenger and Instagram. We will allow you to use, limited SMS, Skype, iChat and perhaps one of the Kid safe social media sites. I know…won’t be happening any time soon but I’m dreaming…  Then there would be so much less pressure for the kids to use an adult platform. I believe it can be done. Parents can change the rules when they realise that these platforms aren’t safe. See my previous post about why Kik Messenger is no longer a messaging app but now closer to a Facebook style app.

There are some online messaging apps with no social aspect attached. iChat and Skype, and SMS still works well if kids are on a set pre paid plan. These are the only two well known and used apps that do not encourage sharing on social media. My recommended apps are still not failsafe, they still require privacy settings and strict monitoring, but they are much safer than what many children are using. There are also some child safe social media sites that can be found here:

Facebook, Kik Messenger, Instagram, YouNow, AskFM, exposes your child to the adult world because they are designed primarily for adults. I’ve witnessed too much harm to kids caused by friends betraying friends and innocent content and identity stolen and shared to humiliate and exploit, to ever recommend an underage child to use Facebook or other social media apps.

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