Are your children REALLY safe online? #innocentsearches

Believe it or not, we get a fair amount of traffic from people around the world NOT looking for fatherhood websites. Instead, they’re searching for ‘who’s the daddy’ related material… if you know what I mean…

Whilst I’m not complaining about getting a few extra hits, it does highlight that the internet does not always deliver exactly what you’re looking for when you search.

This is fine when you’re an adult, your innocence has long gone and you’re aware of the big wide (scary) world out there. But for children, who are just beginning to create their digital footprint and discover the World Wide Web, many dangers are lurking in the not so shadowy shadows.

Louis, my 12-year-old stepson, is in the thick of this now. He is highly active online, anything from sharing photos & chatting with friends to googling a question when it pops into his head.

Our challenge as his parents is to keep him safe and limit the threats out there.

Louis is inquisitive by nature and there’s no doubt that he uses google to help him discover the world around him. The difficulty is that all too often an innocent search in Google can throw up some not so innocent results.

During my time at school, I did a Google search for ‘fireman,’ clicked on images, saw a hunky fireman in a precarious position and ended up with the IT co-ordinator banning me for looking at porn. I guess he must’ve thought I was into that kind of thing. For the record, I’m not.

Just for a moment, try Googling the following and see what comes up:

Cowgirl

Doggy

Both words wouldn’t be unusual within a 6-year-olds vocabulary. Innocent searches can always lead to not so innocent results.

Some key (and horrifying) stats:

  • Childline has seen a 60% year on year increase in counseling sessions with children left worried after seeing porn online.
  • NSPCC research found that children were as likely to find pornography accidentally, as to deliberately search for it.
  • Web traffic to the NSPCC’s parent advice on protecting young people from the impact of porn has increased by 58% during 2016.

But it’s not just pornographic material that we parents should be concerned about. If you ‘Google,’ “Wet Koala,” for example, this is what comes up:

Not the most child-friendly image and for many would cause a lot of distress.

The difficulty, for many parents, is that locking down, securing and monitoring their children’s internet usage. This can seem like a very technical task – too technical for many parents.

This is not the case so keep reading and we’ll tell you why! 

We check Louis’ devices every night and pick up on anything the following day with him if needed. We also use monitoring software to check where he’s been when surfing the net. But I’m still at a loss in many other ways. I still don’t feel that he is completely safe and I have complete overview of his internet exploits. I’m not sure I ever will, but even so, I’d like to get as close to feeling as good as I can as possible.

We’ve recently come across the NSPCC parental controls advice and their #innocentsearches campaign. They have teamed up with O2 to bring parents the best advice and guidance on keeping their children safe online.

Following the Christmas season, where many children will have received new devices games consoles and ‘hand-me-downs.’ It’s common that many of these devices won’t have the correct security in place from the word go, putting our children at risk of seeing, reading and hearing things that aren’t, age appropriate.

Make sure that your children are safe.

The NSPCC website clearly spells out many ways in which you can set up parental controls on your family’s network. Everything from mobile devices to broadband and Wi-Fi away from home to games consoles.

If you want personalised help you can book an appointment with an O2 Guru in a store (whether you’re a customer or not) and they can set up the controls for you. Or, you can call the O2 & NSPCC Online Safety Helpline – 0808 8005002for advice from their advisors.

Lastly, the one thing both the NSPCC and O2 recommend is that you talk to your child about online safety regularly. The more you do it, the more natural talking about it is. Whenever Ted and I are walking out and about, ‘the green man’ and road safety always (without fail) make an appearance. Online safety should be no different.

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