Keeping children and young people safe online

The Internet has transformed the way in which we all live our lives. Never before has there been a technology that has grown with such speed, had such a deep and wide penetration into all parts of society and all cultures, or been so (relatively) affordable.

Children and young people are among the biggest users of online technology – whether it is for education, research, online gaming, email, social media or a host of other uses. Young people cannot imagine a time when they could not simply take their phone out of their pocket to look for details of the next bus, find a film to watch, enjoy face-to-face contact with their friends or take and share photos and videos of seemingly every moment of their waking day.

However, this phenomenal growth in use and applications does carry risks. You would not allow your eight-year-old to wander the streets of a strange town alone; yet that is effectively what they may be doing when online, unless simple safeguards have been put in place.

Make no mistake about it, the internet is a fantastic resource, but it does have to be used sensibly and parents should not simply assume that everything is safe or that their children are behaving responsibly. So, what can you do?

Fortunately there are a number of resources available to help parents navigate their way through the mass of information that is available. Here are some of the best:

Warwickshire Facebook Page – Staying Safe Online — An easy way to keep up with online safety messages, risks and awareness is to visit this Facebook page. The page has regular updates and many Warwickshire schools have provided e-Safety content in the form of images, videos, songs and classwork. If you do not have an account, that’s fine, just go to this web address – https://www.facebook.com/stayingsafeonline – and you can view the page. If you do have an account, search for Staying Safe Online and ‘Like’ the page and you will then receive updates about online safety.

If you would like to check that your Facebook settings are just how you want them, this guide is really useful: http://emdp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Facebook-checklist-Nov2013.pdf

Internet Matters have a great e-safety advice section that breaks down the different uses by age, starting with 0-5 and going through to 14+. This enables you to evaluate the actual risks and it clearly explains the measures that you can take to help protect your children. The site also gives very helpful information about issues that children may face: http://www.internetmatters.org

NSPCC has a great section of its website dedicated to online safety. It gives helpful advice and tools, particularly around social networking behaviours, and also has a great section about different types of technologies such as laptops, tablets and mobiles: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety

BBC website has some great resources in its Share Take Care pages, as well as links to videos, external sites and other resources on a host of internet and broadband-related issues: http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/0/22728225 If you go up one level from this link to the Webwise pages there are also numerous articles on topics ranging from “what is a search engine?” through Digital Skills to topics such as Crowdfunding. This site alone could make the topic of a future newsletter!

Respect Yourself is an award-winning campaign run by Warwickshire County Council that gives advice to teenagers about safe online and offline relationships. It is not specifically focussed on online issues, but does give some very helpful guidance. It also covers issues such as relationships, peer pressure, self-image and confidence, and has a section specifically for parents. The advice is practical and down to earth, and uses language that teenagers themselves will recognise and relate to: http://www.respectyourself.info

Other information in this section: