Internet safety must be child’s play for adults

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One of the most challenging issues facing parents these days is the setting of boundaries for a child’s use and access to the Internet.

The government has recognised this and appointed Claire Perry MP to advise on “preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood”.

As part of her role she is making proposals to ensure Internet safety is taught in schools and wants to encourage parents to view children’s texts and Internet exchanges.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a mixed response to her suggestions, with some parents horrified at the thought of being advised to invade their child’s privacy.

Thankfully my own children are now grown up and I won’t be part of the current generation of parents who will have to make some awkward digital security decisions on behalf of their children. Having said that I have been involved in some research on the issue and thought I would share with you three of the questions that were being asked.

Firstly, How old do you think a child should be before owning a smartphone? Secondly, Do you know how to activate filters on Internet-enabled devices to prevent a child’s access to adult material?

And thirdly, do you think you should do a history check to view your child’s Internet exchanges?

The research is not yet completed, but I can tell you that so far the responses have been very varied and inconsistent. Some people think it is OK for a child as young as eight to have a smartphone, although most suggested being over 13 was appropriate. Many people indicated they would like to activate filters and do history checks but admitted they did not know how to do it. However, the one where opinions differed the most was the intrusive checking of a child’s Internet use.

Although people realised they could search the Internet for advice on these topics, few could actually name a specific website nor did they know if there were any recommended national child Internet security standards. I have every reason to believe the responses received to date are fairly typical, ranging from intrusive and severe Internet boundaries being set for children, through to no boundaries being created whatsoever. If this is a subject you would like to know more about, have a look at the UK Council for Child Internet Safety website. It is easy to navigate and has links to all the current and recommended safety advice.

A few hours of reading, a few minutes of downloading security filters and some sensible agreements with your child may save a lot of worry and heartache in the long term.

If you would like Mick Gradwell to give a talk to your society, a presentation or an educational lecture, contact 01253 600800 for further information.