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Wee ones and the web


DANGERS ABOUND The internet and social media can be platforms for bullying, violent imagery, porn and sexual predation.


Deirdre Freney

All generations face the consequences of internet exposure these days. Life online impacts our children and therefore it must be discussed in all homes. When compared to parents 20 years ago, today’s mums and dads have very different problems to tackle due to this world of information that streams into our children’s consciousness.
While it is an undeniably educational tool that can be used for much good, it also brings with it very complex and worrying issues – including bullying, violent imagery, porn and sexual predation. Educating ourselves about the platforms that our children are exposed to, and the ways in which we can limit their exposure, is obviously very important.
So what can we do to help keep our children safe online?

Start talking
Opening up communication as to what your child is doing online is a good start. Ask them what they want to do online and what apps they wish to download. When you have this information, you can then begin your research.
It is important to consider whether an app is age appropriate. You can do this by doing a quick google search, which will also help you find out whether it brings any other risks to your child. Remember to check the app’s privacy settings.
When your child feels like they can discuss their online habits with you free of judgement, it will encourage honesty in the long run.

Controls and filters
The next step to consider is parental controls and filters. It’s important to remember that supervision is by far the most-effective parental control when it comes to social media and the internet. However, parental controls and filters do also help to keep the risks down. There are many free, downloadable online parental filters and control out there, such as K9 Web Protection, content-control software created by Blue Coat Systems.
If your child is using a smartphone, turning off its camera’s photo-location services will ensure that pictures that are taken by your child don’t have the location of where they were taken attached to them.
House rules
Establishing set house rules regarding online- and social-media use will also help to protect children.
Internet access times and duration should be discussed and agreed, and the golden rule of not sharing personal information needs to be implemented.
Having a cut off time at night for connected devices and keeping device out of bedrooms can also limit unsupervised access.

Stranger danger
If your child wants to download an app do your research first; and remember, it is important to know what social media platform your child is accessing.
It might sound obvious, but it’s important to remind children not to interact with people who they don’t know, and not to add them to their contact lists. You also need to teach your child about fake profiles.
The people they encounter on the web may not always be who they say they are.  
We need to educate children on how to behave responsibly online, how to protect their privacy, and what is and what is not appropriate to share.
Without frightening them, we should try to explain the potential dangers and how to react if they are put in a position that they are uncomfortable with.
It may seem like a daunting challenge but thankfully there are many resources available for parents to tackle the issue of online and social media use.
A lot of this information is available online – another reminder that although terrifying at times, the internet is a powerful resource once we use it responsibly.