Harry is now in year 4 at school. He is increasingly finding that the work is getting harder, and that goes for his homework too. He brings home at least two pieces of homework every week, along with reading and spellings. Just from observing my three children I find it clear to see the differences in learners. Harry has always met his targets at school, but he has to work a little harder to get there. Matilda seems to be more of a natural learner. She is also much more motivated to learn, she always has a pencil in her hand writing stories. Harry on the other hand takes a little more encouragement.
One thing Harry does love to do though is research. He will spend hours looking at information books, learning facts that he will wow us all with. This love of research is now progressing, he wants to be online, because he is learning that when you are online there is no limits to what you can learn. Instead of searching for the right book you can just type it into Google and there you have it.
As much as I love his thirst for knowledge, I am always nervous about letting him loose online. The children have used tablets for a long time, but I have always been keen to stick to apps that I have downloaded. Games that I have checked out first and can be confident that they are safe to use. But with Harry coming home wanting and needing to research different topics for homework, I am becoming much more aware that many of his friends have more access to the online world then he does.
Keeping children safe online
Before I let Harry loose online I have been researching much more about the ways in which we can keep our children safe online. Did you know that 1-in-3 12-15 year old’s are in contact with someone that they don’t know via the internet (source)? Although my children aren’t in that age bracket yet it worries me that soon he will have access to a whole new world. And to some extent there is little control I can have over what he will be doing.
The main key to keeping our children safe online, is to be completely open with them. Have honest conversations with them about what you expectations of them are, warn them about potential dangers. Setting clear boundaries from the beginning will make it easier for you to remain in control. Tell them what they are and aren’t allowed to do, set time limits. Tell them that you may check on their device to keep an eye on what they are doing. But always remind them that this is for their safety and not to be controlling.
Learn about the apps they are using, and teach them how to keep themselves safe on them. If they are using social media teach them how to report something unwanted, or how to block someone from contacting them. Learn about the privacy settings and teach them how to protect their own information. Reiterate the importance of not sharing information with strangers.
My children have told me that at school they talk about the SMART rules. This is something they are taught at a very young age and reminded of frequently. Click on the image below to be directed to Childnet.com to find out more information.
Check their devices
Check the parental control settings on your children’s tablets or mobile phone. We have been using the Acer Iconia One, the parental controls are amazing, most of which are table wide on any android device. The Iconia gives you the option of a separate restricted profile for children. When they log in to their profile it still looks exactly the same as the adult profile. But from your adult profile you can decide what apps you want them to access. Google Playstore also offers parental controls, enabling you to be able to define the age limits for what is viewed in Playstore. And also a password protection so that children can’t download without permission.
Kids Social Media
All of the main social media channels have age limits. I know of at least a few children who have been allowed access to social media underage. This shows children that it is okay to lie. If they are lying about their age when they register for these accounts, when else might they lie? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat all have a minimum age of 13. Whatsapp is 16 and Youtube is 18 (13 with parental consent). These age limits are in place for a reason, and should be respected.
At the moment the only social media that my children are interested in is YouTube. Luckily YouTube have created the YouTube Kids app, a safer way for your children to enjoy YouTube. Show your children the alternatives to social media sites. Websites such as Kuddle, Yoursphere, Kidzworld and Popjam have been developed specifically for children.
Ultimately though, remember that this technology is a great thing for our children. There is a world of knowledge and fun for them to have. We just need to be aware of how to keep them safe online so that they can continue to enjoy that extra freedom.
This post was written in collaboration with ao.com.