Keeping Your Child Safe Online


This blog doesn ‘t normally deal with issues of child safety, however this week’s news reports of bullying by sexting have for some reason fuelled my otherwise calm demeanor! Needless to say, I ‘ve deleted a list of things to do to the foul creatures involved in this behaviour. See any Roald Dahl book for suggestions. In place of anger, I ‘ve drawn up a list of things children/teens and parents can do to keep themselves safe in the digital age.

While I often extol the virtues of social media for business purposes, I feel some things need to be said.

  1. Kids/teens: it’s time to stop ‘acting the wain’ about your own safety online. Giggling and pretending to be silly doesn’ cut it. And, remember while you’re negligent about your own safety online, that probably includes your little brothers and sisters or younger friends too, if they appear in any pictures and videos.
  2. Parents: you need to stop using the ‘I’m not very with it when it comes to computers’ excuse. Get with it!! There are many tutors, courses and workshops in public libraries and offered by other organisations (including Sensei), many of them free. It is up to you whether you provide your child with a phone. If you do, there is little to stop someone sending them obscene material, or material you would find upsetting. That choice is up to you. With regard to online access, again, you need to maintain control, while you’re paying the bills.

When it comes to social media, the following would make a great start for all parents and kids or teens.

Keep Your Profile Private

Sites such as Bebo, MySpace, Facbook, Twitter and the like are sometimes called profiles. This is because they outline who you are, what you look like, where you live and what you do (work and personal). Profiles can be private or public.

Private profiles can be closed to everyone, but open to the owner and his or her friends, or open to other users of the social networking site. Different sites work differently.

Public profiles are open to the world. No passwords or special permissions are required.

To find out if a profile is private or public, log off your own profile, type the URL of the profile into the address bar of any browser and press Enter. If the page appears, with no restrictions on what can be viewed, it is public (to the world). If it appears only with a name, photo and perhaps location, with a Login button beside it, it is private.

Friend Friends

Connect with your friends. Avoid random strangers. This limits the damage that can be done by sharing your profile – and often your location and what you are doing – with anyone. Depending on how their (and your) privacy settings are set up, their friends may also be able to see your profile. Pay attention to privacy and security setttings. Do not simply assume that your or your child’s profile is secure.

Keep Your Date of Birth Offline

Yes, I know. It ‘s lovely to receive a Happy Birthday message, but don ‘t your friends and family already have this information? There is no need for it to be online on social networking profiles. Your DOB can be used by those who would wish to steal your identity and use it to commit fraud. Alternatively, it could be used by people who want to know what age you are, in order to make contact with you for illegitimate reasons.

A word of warning to teachers. I have encountered what appeared to be innocent contact between a teacher and his pupils online recently. I’d doubt if the parents would take the same view as I did, that it was a genuine contact. Others may view it differently. In our suspicious and litigous society, I’d steer clear of making contact with under-18s online.

Keep Your Location Offline

My advice to under-18s is to keep your location offline. Once you turn 18 and attend uni or get a job, you may wish to add your location in. In any case, I ‘d limit this to the name of the country you live in, unless there ‘s a specific reason. Once you are in the workplace, your location is likely to be easy to find in any case via the Contact Us page on your organisation ‘s website, for anyone who wishes to know.

Keep Pictures Private

Be your own moral judge of what pictures are appropriate to place on your online profile. Suffice to say that when you reach 18, any prospective employer is not likely to be impressed by dubious, silly photos he may discover while researching you online, before offering an interview or job.

And, what you DO post online, keep private for friends only.

With the news this month that sexting (bullying by sending sexually explicit photographs via mobile phone) is on the increase, this makes a whole lot of sense.

If you ‘d like me to come and speak on this topic at your children ‘s, youth or parents ‘ organisation, club or school, drop me a line on 028 9043 6634. We already deliver seminar and talks to schools and youth organisations on various topics.

All Sensei speakers are trained in Child Protection and are cleared to work with children in Northern Ireland.

Image credit: ChrisL_AK.