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Our Children’s Digital World

Posted on 06 March 2015

Young people today are growing up in a very different world to the one we did.  But we can’t use that as an excuse to sit back and watch.  We need to be as informed as they are and need to communicate to our children, even the younger ones, about the good things and the difficult things they might come across in the digital world.  Here are a few top tips to get you started:

How do I set up parental controls?

There are lots of different options for parental controls. Some internet service providers offer them at the network level so you set up parental controls on your WiFi and every device in your home is protected as long as you access the internet via your WiFi. That might sound obvious but devices like smartphones and 3G tablets enable you (and more importantly your children) to access the internet directly.

If your internet service provider doesn’t let you set up parental controls at the network level or if you decide that doesn’t work for your family, you can think about setting them up on every device in the house. Computers, phones, TV’s and gaming devices will all have parental controls some easier to find than others.

**TOP TIP** When you are buying a device for your home ask the shop to show you the parental controls.

What are in-app purchases?

In app purchases are things you can buy when you are in an app. The reason people are talking about them is that lots of apps are free to download but when kids start to play them there are various things they can buy – and unless you’ve checked by playing the game yourself or reading the bumph about the game you may not realise they are doing it.

**TOP TIP** Turn off in app purchases if you can on the settings of your smartphone or tablet device

What do I do if my child is being bullied online?

There is an awful lot of information and help out there for children who are being bullied. Beatbullying is a national organisation that provides support to young people and has a useful fact sheet for parents that you can download at: http://www2.beatbullying.org/static/bigmarch/downloads/faqs.pdf

Make sure your child knows that you are on their side but that you’re going to work with them to sort it out and not start charging ahead without telling them what you’re planning to do. Sounds like an odd first tip, but the temptation to confront the parents of the bullies can be overwhelming and it isn’t always a good idea. If your child feels as though they are losing even more control you might find that instead of helping you make them feel worse.

Keep the evidence. It’s really tempting to tell them to delete texts or messages but it’s important to hang on to them so you have evidence of what’s happening

Report it to the service provider.

Try to discourage them from using technology in bed. Lots of youngsters sit in bed playing on iPads and smartphones. The last thing you want them to do is to be sitting in bed reading upsetting messages or getting into disputes on Facebook. Encourage them to think of their bedroom as a tech-free zone so they can go to sleep and not have their last thoughts dominated by a message from a bully

How do I set privacy controls?

Privacy controls are really important. You wouldn’t share your personal information with every stranger in the street and the same applies online. You will find Privacy settings on all social networking sites in your account settings. Facebook, LinkedIn and smaller sites like CitySocialising all have them.

Do Blackberry’s have parental controls?

Until recently, Blackberry handsets did not have parental controls. The very good news is that the situation has changed - BlackBerry® Parental Controls are available via BlackBerry App World™ for customers with a BlackBerry® 6, BlackBerry® 7 OS smartphone or BlackBerry® Device Software 5. The free app provides parents and guardians simple options to help them protect their children by restricting access to specific functions, features and applications on the smartphone.

What are PEGI labels?

PEGI labels appear on the front and back of computer and video games, indicating one of the following age levels: 3, 7, 12, 16 and 18. They provide a reliable indication of the suitability of the game content in terms of protection of children. The age rating does not take account of difficulty level or skill required to play a game.

What is a ‘rogue app’?

A ‘rogue app’ is a piece of malicious software (malware) disguised as a mobile web application - popularly known as an app. Available via app stores, they might be disguised as ‘free levels’ to legitimate online games, or even as security tools, but when you download the app, you also download the malware. Check mobile phone bills and activity on your child’s mobile phone - unexplained charges, rapid battery loss and unfamiliar applications can be warning signs of malicious software. Always check app reviews and ratings before downloading, or buy from an online retailer.

What is Google Safesearch?

Safesearch screens website that contain sexually-explicit content and removes them from your search results.  Whilst no filter is 100% accurate, Safesearch helps your children to avoid inappropriate content online.  Go to www.google.com and click on ‘Search settings’ at the top right of the page.  Go to the third section on the ‘Search settings’ page, called ‘Safesearch filtering’ and choose the level of filter you would like activated on your computer.  ‘Strict Filtering’ filters both explicit text and images.  If you have a Google account, you can lock Safesearch on your computer.  No-one except you can change the settings.

Does Facebook have privacy controls and should my children be using them?

Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites in the world.  It has a minimum age limit of 13 years old.  It does have privacy controls and this allows users to decide which people and applications can see their information.  If your son or daughter is using Facebook they can choose to share their information with ‘friends only’, ‘friends of friends’ or ‘everyone.’  If they have registered on Facebook as being under 18, their Facebook profile will not come up if someone Googled them and their information is limited to friends of friends even if they have chosen to make it available to everyone.  It is worth going through these settings with your child and particularly Facebook Places.  This was launched in 2010 where users can ‘check in’ from mobile devices to share their location with their online contacts and see where their friends are.  The privacy controls allows Places users to decide how and with whom they share their location, including whether or not their friends can check them into places.

The 3 R’s – Risk, Reputation, Responsibility

Conversations about Risk:

“Do you know who all your online friends are offline?”

“Do you know how to block someone on Facebook?”

“Do you have a PIN on your mobile phone?”

“Do any of your friends send photos of themselves?”

“Do you know how to save that sort of evidence?”

“Would you report that at school/CEOP?”

“Why have we blocked content on our computer?”

Conversations about Reputation

“Remember what goes online stays online”

“What does your online peer group say about you?”

“When did you last check your privacy settings?”

“Can you help me check my settings?”

“Are you changing your password regularly?” 

“Do you know the best way to get offending material taken down?”

“What will your future fiancé's parents think of you? “

Conversations about Responsibility

“Have you come across any good social initiatives?

“How can you use the internet for good?

“What do you think you are not doing because you are online so much?”

“What would you do as parent about how long you should stay online?”

“I trust you to make good decisions, but I also need to learn from you.”


Article by Zoe Sinclair from Employee’s Matter.  The views are the author’s own.