Book review of “Someone Should Have Told Me”, a book for parents to read and discuss with their young children, about being exposed to scary, weird stuff online by Holly-ann Martin from Safe 4 Kids.
Often when I’m giving a presentation on Cyber Safety, I will recommend West Australian Child Protection Advocate Holly-ann Martin from “Safe 4 Kids” books and website, to help parents find a way to have discussions with children about seeing pornography or how to deal with other scary or uncomfortable things they see on the internet.
Increasingly parents are being advised to address these sensitive issues before they arise. Children are being introduced to the internet and digital technology at younger and younger ages, so these discussions about these sensitive subjects need to take place not when children are teens, but when they are in primary school.
Your child may not have access to a digital device yet, but on visiting a friend or family member they may have. They may also inadvertently access an older person’s device at home without your knowledge. I have heard terrible stories from parents of children working out how to use a search engine on their parent’s phone to look up perfectly innocent words, only to come across horrific pornography right at home where they are supposed to be safe.
As Holly says in this book, it’s not a matter of if your children will be exposed to adult material online, but when. Of course, adults can try to ensure all digital devices are locked down at set with child-friendly filters, but even the best security on a device might let something through that wasn’t expected.
Be sure to sit with your younger children when they are using internet-connected devices, ensure that they only use age-appropriate apps and stay offline as much as possible when younger. Using digital devices in offline mode with child appropriate apps is far safer than connecting the device to the internet.
Having regular safe discussions with your child about digital devices is essential to protect them in the future. This book helps parents to start having these sometimes difficult conversations with their child. It features delightful child-friendly illustrations and simple messages that are not scary. Parents are guided to use age appropriate language and an approach so that children are not frightened of technology.
At the back of the book are instructions on how to use the book, and some background about what to look out for, and how to deal with a situation should you discover your child has seen pornography or has had contact with a stranger online.
Holly has a whole series of similar books about child protection.
I put some questions to Holly about what her book is all about and what she does.
Holly, what is your background in child protection?
I’ve been teaching Protective Education to children in schools for over 30 years, in 2007 I took a loan out on my home, quit my job and have been teaching it all over Australia since then.
Why did you write this book?
After teaching my program to over 5500 children in 2017, I was greatly concerned with what children were telling me what they were getting up to without their parent’s knowledge online.
How should parents use this book?
I wrote my book as a stimulus to start these vital conversations between parents and their children.
When do parents need to start talking to children about safety online?
I believe parents need to start having these conversations, especially the one about pornography, by six years old at the latest.
Why do children talk to strangers online?
Unfortunately, many parents still teach their children about stranger danger, but that is in the real world, children don’t understand that the rules still apply in the online world too. They think just because they are in their home that they are safe and unfortunately parents don’t know how to talk with children about online grooming and other tactics that people use to gain children’s trust.
Why do children share intimate photos of themselves?
There are lots of reasons children share intimate photos. They don’t understand the implications of it, how it can be used to extort more photos. They also want to be liked and validated and told they are beautiful or handsome.
What stops parents from discussing some of these issues with children?
I think often parents themselves don’t know the issues online and don’t realise the dangers that are at their child’s fingertips, especially when it comes to pornography and the ease that children can come across it either by searching it out or accidentally. Most children spend a great deal of time on YouTube and there is so much inappropriate content on there. Parents don’t understand how to set privacy settings, as well as many children, are live streaming, which parents don’t know about either.
What happens if children do fall victim to predators online?
I always encourage children to speak to a trusted adult about it, but if they feel they can’t, to ring the Kids Helpline as they can help children get in touch with the eSafety Commissioner.
How can we make it safer for children online experience?
Education, Education, Education. Educate children, their parents and teachers need better training also.
Where can parents buy your book? https://safe4kids.com.au/shop/
Where can they find out more information about what you do? www.safe4kids.com.au I also have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Safe4KidsAbusePreventionProgram/ and a YouTube channel where I share lots of free content. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx6XeUtZ1_TsKjH49Ydi-iQ?view_as=subscriber
Thank you, Holly-ann Martin