Around a year ago, I wrote about choosing to give my then 8 year old an iPod Touch – it’s since become the most popular post on the blog by far, particularly in the run up to Christmas when I guess many parents were facing this same dilemma. And in fact we were facing it all over again ourselves – my girl in the middle (age seven) is now the very proud owner of her own iPod also.
Until recently, I’ve been fairly confident in my ability to
police tactfully supervise the use of internet enabled devices – I tend to be pootling about nearby when the kids are online; I have set the devices up to only access age appropriate apps and content; and Google and Youtube are also set to safe search to give another layer of security. Realistically I know that I won’t be able to maintain this level of supervision as the kids get older, a point driven home when my eldest came home from school last term and informed me he’d need to borrow my laptop to log on to the gaming/social networking site he’d signed up for on the class computer earlier that day.
I’d never heard of the site in question, though after some research I’m cautiously ok with it under fairly strict conditions. However the experience served to highlight a couple of things to me – firstly that despite considering myself social media savvy, I am actually completely out of date as far as being aware of what’s popular with kids and teenagers; secondly although I can and do supervise his online access at home, I can’t expect that he will have an equivalent level of supervision elsewhere, even at school.
Given that I can’t wrap them in cotton wool and protect them from the world for, like, EVER (sob), AND that I seem to be horribly out of date (and there was me thinking I was all down with da kidz – I mean I’m on Instagram and everything!!) I was really pleased when the NSPCC contacted me about their new #shareaware campaign. It’s aimed at parents with children ages 8-12, to help them support their kids to use the internet safely; it includes a parents guide which offers general, sensible and realistic advice for parents, and there’s a section on ‘Talking Tips’ which I found particularly useful for suggesting ways to open conversations about staying safe online.
#Shareaware also addresses the biggest problem that we face as adults – staying up to date with the vast number of apps, games and sites that young people use to communicate with each other. There’s a brilliant guide called Netaware where you can search by name, by popularity, and even by the colour of an icon – and once you have identified the app you want to know more about, there is a wealth of detailed information available, including:
- how young people use the app, and why they like it
- how easy or otherwise it is to find/change privacy settings
- how likely it is that a child will come across inappropriate content
- safety advice for parents and children using the app
- Other similar or related apps.
I’ve seen various other online guides for parents, and none have been as comprehensive and user friendly as Netaware; and the great thing is that the content on the site is being continuously reviewed so that as quick as these pesky new apps get popular, us dinosaur parents will be able to get with the programme! And let’s face it, the internet isn’t going anywhere, so getting with the programme is the best chance we have of making sure our kids enjoy the digital age for everything that’s brilliant about it, rather than get caught up in a situation they can’t handle.
If your kids are online in any shape or form, I’d highly recommend a browse through Netaware, as well as the other #shareaware resources from the NSPCC – and I’d love to hear what you think about this, or other parent friendly tools for safe online use, below!