Last week we delved into the depths of the issue of keeping kids safe online, and this week we’re bringing you another instalment as it is such as huge topic. We left you last week on a bit of an abrupt note; parental controls don’t always work. If you’ve set up parental controls, it’s worth actually checking them to ensure they are still in place and to make sure that your children are not accessing site they shouldn’t. Lots of things can affect parental controls such as having a mixture of static and mobile devices – this is a minefield and the best way to combat it is to contact your internet provider and have someone talk you through the entire process. Change your Wi-Fi password regularly too and make sure that if you have a timed setting in place such as a cut off time for internet access for your children’s devices, make sure you check these regularly too. Don’t have conversations with your internet provider in earshot of your children either.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have taken a screenshot yourself or at the very least seen one or been sent one. Screenshots are basically photographs of the screen of a device. So if you imagine being able to see what is on another person’s screen, that’s what a screenshot is but it has to be sent to you by someone else. People use them to keep a record of what another person has said, because they have date and time stamps on. This can be a negative or positive factor, usually negative. If your child momentarily or otherwise forgets their manners and sends a message online which isn’t very nice and someone takes a screenshot, that can then be stored forever. That one moment in your child’s life where they forget themselves and say something that they haven’t thought through could last a lifetime. Screenshots can also be used when your child has not even done anything wrong. If a fake social media account is set up in your child’s name and it’s used to bully other children for example, screenshots can be taken and used in the future. Even if it’s proved that your child was being impersonated, there will always be someone who sees the screenshot without hearing the backstory.
Coins. No, we’re not talking about our wages (LOL) we’re talking about these pesky things that pop up during kid’s games and sneakily ask your child if they want to buy some coins or token to unlock features or characters in their game. Now, if you hand your child a tablet with Wi-Fi access and don’t restrict spending or access to your credit card details, more fool you, we have zero sympathy, however you need to be aware that these kinds of features in kid’s games do pop up. They’re called ‘In-App Purchases’, or IAPs and they appear in a huge range of free games. The game itself is free, but like we say, it’s often the case that the free game has limited levels or characters and to allow the use of additional levels and so on, these purchases must be made. On certain branded devices a password must be entered to make purchases, so you must make sure you don’t enter it in front of your child. Scores of shocked parents have hit the headlines of the Daily Mail with their obligatory sad face holding up a bill for thousands of pounds, so it’s not that cases are isolated. It just proves that parents need to be more stringent when it comes to what their kids are allowed to do online.
There are age limits on many apps and websites and for good reason. A lot of the lesser known social media apps are video sharing platforms, like Keek. Vine is more popular as is Instagram, but there are still many apps out there available for free download that involve video sharing. Anyone can use these apps and post videos of a sexual nature. You can’t complain, because the age restriction of Vine, YouTube and Keek is 18. Instagram has an age restriction of 13 and videos and images of a sexual or violent nature are not allowed however the rules of Instagram are often flouted with no consequence. Instagram is home to accounts dedicated to self-harm, anorexia, drug use and sex and despite the ‘report to Instagram for breach of guidelines’ option being available, Instagram often allows these accounts to continue posting whilst breastfeeding photos are removed in minutes. Apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and SnapChat have a restriction on age; 13. Again anyone can post images and videos of a sexual or violent nature, and often there are no consequences despite the images being reported as breaches of the stated guidelines.
Remember also that Xbox Live and PlayStation Network allow your child to talk to strangers whilst gaming. If your child can talk to strangers, strangers can talk to your child and like we said last week, you wouldn’t allow it in real life, so why allow it online? The danger is just as real, it just takes a little longer for the danger to get close. Games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty contain elements such as graphic violence, alcohol consumption, seduction of prostitutes and excessive weapon use. Many parents use the excuse that you can turn these features off to a degree in certain areas of the games however swearing is still a huge part of it and so is aggressive behaviour. There is just no need for children to be playing these kinds of games at young ages; the game developers put restrictions on the games for a reason. If the company who created the game feel that only persons aged eighteen and over should be exposed to the features, images and experiences in the game then a parent who has to hear off Sandra next door what the game is about really has no leg to stand on when it comes to deciding if it’s an okay game for kids to play.
Again we must touch on the issue of the easy way to placate your fears – “He’s a good kid though, he won’t do anything daft”. We’ll give you an example of why you can’t think like that as a parent of a child who uses smartphones or tablets. Ever have a phone bill a little more than what you thought it was going to be? Ever call up to query the charge on your bill and find out that the extra £2.76 has been added to your bill as a result of those seven smiley face/crying laughing face/middle finger emoji’s you sent your co-worker over the weekend whilst texting about Monday’s meeting? Imagine, as a child, how cool those emoji’s look to you. You don’t know they cost 35p a time to send because they convert to a multimedia message instead of a text message. It’s not down to bad behaviour, or your child not being a good kid. It’s just that easy to get caught out and landed with a huge bill.
It’s also easy to be exposed to things in other people’s homes. You may have rigorous rules in place regarding internet and device use in your home, you may ban games such as Grand Theft Auto and the ridiculous Five Nights at Freddy’s but there’s the chance that other household take a more lackadaisical approach. You need to make sure your children know what they can and can’t do, and that it’s totally okay for them to say they’re not allowed to play a certain game. You must also make sure your children talk to you regarding any kind of internet or social media activity they take part in, whether you have allowed it or not. You must teach them that they must be nice online, just as they are offline in real life. You must ensure they do not give out any kind of personal details, even if they feel threatened by someone online. Teach them that they can log out and the messages will stop reaching them, and that you can log in and deal with the matter. Make sure they can’t download anything, or that they ask your permission first.
It’s all to keep your children safe. We think we’re keeping our kids safe by not letting them roam the streets but then we hand them these devices which are essentially doorways to an unknown world full of strangers. We need to be more careful, and supervise our children online. Time restrictions are great. Playing Peppa Pig for three hours straight is unhealthy, no matter how kid-safe the game is.
So there you have it. We’ve told you what we know, now it’s your turn to make sure you know exactly what is going on in your home when it comes to internet usage. Here at SEO Enterprise we know how dangerous the web can be when used incorrectly. As specialists in the digital world we know that it’s absolutely crucial to monitor and supervise your children online, and to check any device they use regularly. We do deal purely in SEO Services but we do know how the internet works better than say, your Nan (LOL again) so take the time to really read these articles we have posted regarding keeping your kids safe online. In the meantime, can we be cheeky and remind you that if you do happen to need any SEO for a business you have, any website design you require or any digital marketing you think you could use, to give us a call? We specialise in all areas of search engine optimisation and website design in Manchester, so make sure you bear us in mind.