With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Last week we went to look round the local secondary schools with my eldest. She is currently in year six and it made me realise just how quickly this year will go and how we need to make sure she is ready for secondary school and all the changes it will bring. I want her to be confident and independent from the start and to travel to and from school herself.
To do this safely, I want her to have a mobile phone so that we can contact each other instantly and I will always know where she is. She has already asked for a phone for Christmas. While she is thinking which make and model she wants I am more concerned with the whole raft of safety concerns that come with it. How can we keep our school-age children safe on their mobiles?
Of course, the easiest solution is not to let your child have a mobile phone. They cost a lot and are easily lost or stolen. In the past we didn’t have phones, we simply got to where we needed to go at the time we were told and if we were late we faced the consequences. For me, this is not really a solution. Our children live in an online world. They need to be able to use mobile technology and do it safely. Just like we are letting them walk to school on their own or go on the bus we have to allow them to go out in the digital world.
My biggest concern both in the real world and online is that they will meet someone who will hurt or upset them, this might be friends cyberbullying or strangers with even more sinister agendas. Children need good education about how to stay safe, how to spot someone who might not have their best interests at heart and what they can do to protect themselves. Children will have already had lessons on e-safety at school and will start to know what they can do to stay safe online.
Another seemingly easy option is to give them an old-fashioned phone which only has calls. This will undoubtedly cut down costs and will also mean it isn’t so tempting to be stolen, I wish my ten-year-old would be happy with this solution, but unfortunately, I don’t know many preteens who would be happy playing Snake. Instead, children need to know how to keep their phones tucked away to minimise theft. A retro phone is always a good penalty for if they do break the rules.
I don’t know about you, but I already feel tightly stretched. There is never enough time in the day and I don’t have time to be constantly checking my child’s phone. It’s just another job to do and I worry that in a busy schedule it just won’t happen. It’s so easy to let them go on the internet for two hours when you meant to only let them go on for half that time. Even if you check regularly, you might miss that one horrible email or those app charges that end up costing you a lot. Children are also very capable of hiding what they are up to.
Rather than monitoring their every move, it is important to open a dialogue so they can come to you if they are worried. It is also important that they know the rules and that they are very clear. For example, one of our rules is that they can’t have a Facebook account until they are 13. It is also worth discussing what will happen if they don’t follow the rules.
Kaspersky Security Cloud is a good solution for keeping your mobile device safe and offers a family package for up to twenty devices. It is a feature-filled package to protect your family’s devices. One highly important action it takes is to protect your passwords ensuring your privacy is protected. You can set up of a temporary virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt all internet data sent and received on the device when it is switched on.
My daughter finds it really hard to understand the difference between our home wifi and mobile internet connections. She doesn’t understand that some Wi-fi connections might be unsafe and that using them could allow someone to access her information. The Secure Connection on Kaspersky launches automatically if an unsafe Wi-fi hotspot is detected, or sensitive websites or apps are opened.
The other main benefit of this system is that you can use it to control your children’s internet usage. You can either set them a time limit or you can give them set hours when they can go online. Of course, you would still need to monitor what exactly what they are accessing during that time. You can set up restrictions for certain websites and will also receive notifications if your child tries to access inappropriate material. This sounds really useful, although there is no way of knowing what might upset a child that they might still see. My daughter was really upset by some reports in the news, natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes really unsettle her and we have needed to work hard to build her digital resilience so she is able to cope with these things if she sees them.
Digital 5 A Day
The most important thing is that you take time to prepare and educate your child, so they are able to navigate this new world. I love the idea of a digital 5 a day as it is really clear and easy to understand. This simple tool from the government helps to educate everyone in having good mental health. It encourages you to form good connections, to be mindful, creative and active as well as give to others. As long as going online is just one part of that then you will still lead a happy full life, a bit like how you can eat sweets as a part of a balanced, healthy diet.
Mobile technology has become a fundamental part of ours and our children’s lives. Just as we teach them how to cross the road safely they now need to navigate social media and the internet. As parents, we need to guide them so they become confident and give them the tools to stay safe.
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