Friday, 13 September 2013

Safely Does It - Child Internet Safety

Somebody this week Tweeted me that:
 'Teaching children Internet safety should be like the Green Cross Code Man taught us road safety in the 70's'
NEVER was a Tweet more accurate.
With headlines on a daily basis of youth suicide due to cyber-bullying, kids repeatedly accessing traumatic footage, young boys and girls being targeted by predators etc. Now is the time we really must approach this subject with our kids and make them aware of the hidden dangers.

As you may or not know I have a son. He is 11 going on 25 and has hit his 'Alpha Male' period! I try to protect him all the time, 'wear your bike helmet', 'Don't watch that', 'No you can't have that game' etc etc This week I have seen him go to on to upper school and then be bullied after just 2 days. That issue was stamped on straight away and the school was excellent.

Sometimes though the bubble wrap just isn't enough and no matter what you have done previously something happens and you realise just how vulnerable your precious child really is.

I've heard and read a great deal about keeping your children safe online this week. It is a complete minefield and extremely difficult to control.
As soon as online safety is mentioned we instantly think predator or paedophile but it is also about what they SEE. I know I've accidentally seen things online I wish I hadn't - but a few clicks here and there and you can end up in some really dark places miles away from where you start.

Mamabear's Robyn Spoto talks about just how important talking to your children regarding using social media is in today's world; in this really good article HERE.
I use a combination of talking about bad stuff online and what sites I like him using, along with History monitoring and keeping a constant regular check of who he is friends with. To be honest he is not really into social media yet and actually watches videos, game walkthroughs and plays online games, so I am not in 'that place' yet of Twitter and Facebook etc.

Sometimes though, even with all my good practice and knowledge it gets really difficult and I found out just how hard a few months back...

My son has a Nexus, which he received from me for Christmas. Previously to that he borrowed my laptop and used it with me present in our lounge, but as he has always been a really good boy online and I know from checking History & various installed software he looks at nothing bad AT ALL - EVER. Well not at home and not on any of our devices.

He was in bed and I went up to check on on him - you know, tuck them in - poke them - watch them for a while.... He'd fallen asleep reading his Kindle app. I picked up the Nexus which was sleeping and went to Google something....

He had a few pages open and I was closing them down when I saw it.


It wasn't just naked people, it wasn't just sex - it was pure full on HARDCORE explicit. Stuff I would never, ever look at and my little boy, my baby had seen it.

I sat and I cried. I got angry. I swore. I cried again.

I remember finding a porn mag when I was 12 in my Dad's work van, this made THAT magazine look like Cbeebies.
I NEVER want to see Mr Tumble on that website.

I sat up most of the evening. Debating on what to do. How do I ask him? What do I say? Do I shout? Do I cry? Do I ask him just how much he watched? It went on and on and I didn't sleep.
Morning came and we woke as per usual, instantly he knew something was wrong with me and I don't know how! I asked him to sit in the kitchen with me and have a cuppa. He did.
I explained very calmly what I had found and he sat with huge tears in his beautiful eyes, quite utterly mortified. Then it all came out in a barrage of guilt and explanation, he hadn't seen much at all. his older FRIEND had shown him how to bypass the blocks and look at this horrendous free site and Ev (gulping down huge tears) had told him to stop and he shouldn't be looking at this in his house!
I explained the best way I thought, that it wasn't real, that it's almost a 'cartoon' of sex and he should NEVER EVER think that this is what to expect from any future partners. I also offered to even him buy him a magazine to which he absolutely refused (thank goodness) but I explained that I would rather know what he was looking at; That I wasn't cross with him and it was natural to be curious! He was so remorseful and heartbroken that we cried together and it was all OK.....I know he is not ready for any of it YET and even though it scared the hell out of me, HE was actually really mature and stood up to his friend.

I was lucky enough to meet and discuss this issue briefly with Eleanor Mills (Journalist & Broadcaster) at BritMums Live, as Eleanor was a guest speaker on the Feminism Panel. She has written an amazing post regarding porn and the young entitled Generation Porn.

So, we can control what they see and what they do to some extent but just get that clever OLDER friend in the picture and it all goes haywire!

I've invested in better software and bought Norton 360 which allows protection for up to 3 devices. There is also Norton Family Premier which is specifically aimed at children and seeing what they do online! I haven't used that product, but I love 360 - NO getting around anything, anytime, anywhere - Fantastic! You can read all about Norton's top tips to keep children safe online HERE.

Screen shots from my 360 and yes I know I need to back up!:

The worst thing he has looked at since? Some dodgy songs about poo on you tube and I really don't mind!

So have you had any problems online?
Do you use any software aimed at children's usage?
How have you approached the subject?
Do you think schools should fit this into the curriculum?

Song for this post.

This is a Partnered post, please see my disclosure policy for details. Norton 360 was purchased by me for my own use.