Sunday 25 January 2015

What is your child sharing online?

My JJ is a massive fan of his computer, and his iPad come to think of it and pretty soon he'll be at secondary school and expecting a phone I have no doubt. It's a bit daunting for me as a parent to know how to protect JJ when he is online, there is so much scope for him to be seeing things and going places that I don't want him to.

When he is on Minecraft and chatting to the other players, who are they? A 12 year old in America he tells me. But are they really? 'I'd never give my personal information away online Mum, that is just silly' but then you chat with him further and we talk about when he has Facebook and he tells me 'it is OK to post stuff in FB as you just choose share with friends only and then it is OK'' but he forgets that once you post something for your friends and they start to comment on it, your post is then visible to their friends and so on. There seems to be all these things out there to trip you up and make it hard to stay safe online.

We do talk a lot, so JJ is aware of the dangers that can lurk online and he knows it is OK to approach his Dad and I about whatever he needs to chat about. It does not matter if he has messed up, we just want him to talk to us and this is a good starting point but there is still so much more we need to chat to him about and I'm making it one of my missions this year to become more aware myself and to educate my 11 year old JJ and also his 7 year old sisters.

The NSPCC are really concerned about what kids are sharing on the Internet and in January they launched their #ShareAware campaign with this hard-hitting video. At first you think it is all a bit of harmless fun and as the video progresses it makes you aware of what can happen and how quickly something silly and spontaneous becomes long-lived and detrimental to every day life. I'm going to make sure my kids watch this video tomorrow and then we will chat about it as too many young lives are lost because of online bullying, precious young lives like that of Izzy Dix.

I'd urge you to watch the video and then watch it with your children a couple of times (the first is bound to lose its message due to giggles) and then have a good conversation with your kids. This video is aimed at 8 - 12 year old's but I'll be letting my 7 year olds see it. The NSPCC have some pointers for starting a conversation with your kids if you feel a bit stuck.

The NSPCC have a #ShareAware hub with all the information you need as a parent. No jargon, just really simple information for you to be empowered and knowledgeable in this area.

I started this post thinking I have a pretty good knowledge of social media as I use most of the big platforms, but actually after visiting the NSPCC's Net Aware site there are so many I have never even heard of and some sound just plain scary. Sickipedia for jokes, Snog, a teen dating site where people can rate you as snog, marry or avoid (why, why, would you submit yourself to that?) and Secret a place to share content anonymously (meaning no recriminations!)

So don't be embarrassed if your knowledge is limited and certainly do not think it is too late to talk to your children. It is never too late and always useful to have open and honest conversations with your kids, they could be the difference between them being safe and enjoying their childhood and something we don't even want to think about but have to face is reality in this day and age.

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