How much time do your kids spend in front of screens of one kind or another and is that time supervised? A recent report from the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, urges parents to tempt children to spend more time away from computers, tablets and smartphones. She supported the idea of teaching internet safety in schools and is quoted in the Mirror as saying: “We have to wise up to the reality of the digital world for children.”
There are certainly dangers associated with internet use and we would all perhaps like our children to spend a little more time playing the sort of games we ourselves but computers are also incredibly useful items that will no doubt support many of our kids’ future careers, so how do we strike a balance? Today’s post explores how the next generation is using computers, computer safety issues to be aware of and how small changes in the home can make things calmer for all.
Kids and screen use
We’re all spending more time online and for the most part, kids are very comfortable in the virtual world. Statistics from Ofcom show they prefer watching YouTube and on demand TV compared to more traditional TV screens but when using the internet there is a risk they will stumble over something that makes them feel uncomfortable. An EU kids online survey found that 48 per cent of children expressed that there were things online that upset children of their own age and 13 per cent of 9-16 year olds said they’d been bothered by something they’d seen online. Ten per cent of 8-15 year olds also said they’d seen something that made them feel sad, embarrassed or frightened. Many of us put parental controls in place on our home internet connections and kids’ smartphones but according to Commissioner Longfield up to 80 per cent of three to four year olds now have access to the web, so it might be time to be more aware of the privacy settings on your own smartphone and tablet if your little one enjoys watching the odd episode of Peppa Pig on them.
Understanding screen use
There are lots of ways you can help protect your children online and some are more obvious than others. You’re probably aware that you can set restrictions through your internet provider, but do you have parental controls in place on smartphones used by your kids too?
Being aware of how your children use the internet can really help you to understand potential risks because they’re likely to be a very different internet user from you. Social media platforms such as Facebook have a minimum user age of 13 years, but there’s technically nothing stopping kids mis-entering details so they can set up an account, though there is a mechanism to report profiles like this. We’ve all heard horror stories about kids adding friends to their social profiles who they’ve never met but there can be dangerous even if they’re only speaking with school friends. It’s easy to share photos on platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram that could identify personal details and then there’s the extra avenue of communication social media use affords bullies. When it comes to privacy and potential pitfalls, is your social media savviness up to scratch? Check out minormonitor for extra help.
It’s not just your kids you need to worry about either – their computer sessions could impact your bank balance and the security of your own personal details too. There’s barely a month goes by without a story appearing in the press about a child running up a large bill with an online gaming account or a warning about malware taking over PCs!
Protecting against the risks
First and foremost, it’s essential to talk to our kids about the internet and encourage sensible usage. Many families set a time limit on how much they all spend online, including the parents! If younger kids do want to use apps or watch TV on tablets, watch with them as you would do if it was a TV. As they get older and kids get more protective of their privacy, things can get trickier. For peace of mind you may want to keep the family PC downstairs. If kids object to noise interrupting them while they do homework on the computer, you could compromise by sectioning off part of a room with internal bi-fold doors. These from Vufold can be folded back easily or you can take a sneaky peek at the screen without interrupting the kids. The topic of social media use can be a hot potato for some families as many kids don’t want to feel excluded from platforms their peers are using. Before you say yes or no to their use, make sure you’re familiar with the platform yourselves including the functionality and any privacy and security risk – these things take off so quickly it can be hard to keep track of what’s trendy and what’s not, so keep an ear open for any new mentions!
How do you handle screen use in your home? Do you have the family PC somewhere you can see? Is there a maximum amount of time your little ones are permitted to spend online or do you find things tend to balance themselves?