SMARTPHONES are the most used device for Internet access among Ireland’s nine to 16-year-olds according to the 2014 Net Children Go Mobile study.
And a top concern cited by parents to online protection expert Dr Maureen Griffin is how to monitor children’s activity, now that it has become so mobile.
“It’s not just one easily-monitored computer in the house anymore,” says Dr Griffin, a forensic psychologist.
Laya Healthcare has teamed up with Dr Griffin to produce a series of four practical online safety video seminars for parents which are included at the bottom of this story.
The videos cover various topics – from how to spot if your child is being cyber-bullied to practical tips for controlling online content available to children on smartphone and iPad.
The videos give tips on how to protect kids online when using gaming consoles like Xbox. They identify main risks to kids when ‘socialising online’ using different social media sites and sharing platforms.
Dr Griffin acknowledges the wonderful filtering software available to parents but warns it cannot protect 100%. ”Parents need to be aware — what are the current, popular sites and apps among their kids? Who are their friends online? It’s important to start as you mean to go on — work out guidelines with your child.”
Dr Griffin notes a recent trend among some young people who choose not to make their accounts private on sites like Instagram.
“They want it public because they want more people to like their pictures, even if the ‘likes’ are from random strangers. It’s part of a bigger issue of self-esteem but they’re putting themselves at risk— anybody can copy their info.”
She has visited 450 schools and has met eight-year-olds with 500 online ‘friends’. Parents need to start conversations with their kids, she says, about what it means to be a friend, about what’s ok online behaviour and what isn’t. The Net Children Go Mobile study found 46% of children access Internet daily from their bedrooms. Technology creates distance and disconnect, says Dr Griffin.
“Looking at a screen reduces levels of empathy. Children don’t see the harm they cause; the impact of their words. They don’t see someone somewhere crying because of what they’ve read.”
Starting those conversations and keeping them going will let kids know they can come to you, their parent, if they feel out of their depth online.
* Be involved – find out what your children’s interests are online.
* Recognise the amazing potential of technology.
* Avoid letting technology take over – balance your online and offline worlds.
* Know who your children’s online friends are.
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