Does you child have their own computer? If they are above a certain age I’d be surprised if you said they didn’t. It seems that in current times children see it as their right to be able to go on the web in the privacy of their own space away from parents and away from any prying eyes. As computers have decreased in price I guess that we as parents are just as much to blame, it’s oh so easy just to let them get on with it in their bedroom leaving us with time to ourselves. Most children start with the “look what I can do” stage where they want to show you everything they can do on a computer and then at around age 11 or 12 they move onto the “ALT+TAB” stage where everything they do becomes secret or hidden. It’s then they “need” their own computer. So the question is do you know what your children are doing online?
I know my daughter completely loves 3 things about the internet. Only 3. Facebook, Bebo and MSN Messenger. If you have a girl aged around 13 years old I imagine your daughter is the same. The trouble is that some of these services are possibly some of the most dangerous internet activities that our children could enjoy. Bebo is well known as being the child’s social network of choice (despite having an age limit that shouldn’t allow this to happen). If I know that, children know that, you can be sure that there are plenty of paedophiles that know that as well! If your child has an open profile on Bebo, then they are revealing a lot of personal information to all and sundry. Birthdays, pictures, likes, dislike all open to everybody. An open profile means that the world can see it, not just their chosen friends. Do you know whether your child’s Bebo profile is open or private, do you know what information they are even sharing on their profile?
What usually starts as some mutual comment leaving on Bebo and “sharing the luv” naturally develops into a swapping of Messenger ID’s and then instant chat. I know this because I’ve seen it happen so many times. Of course 99.9% of the time it’s just normal casual chat amongst real friends but then there’s the time when that isn’t the case. I had my daughter down as somebody with oodles of common sense, well beyond her years. That was until the time I came across the report that showed a chat she’d been having with an 18 year old boy that she’d never met. She’s 12 by the way. What seems like harmless chat to her flags every possible warning sign to me as an adult. She was told in no doubt to remove that contact and never ever chat with them again. This is just one real world example that I know about because I keep an eye on my daughter’s computer usage. I could go on and on about the number of her friends who are as young as 9 and have public Bebo profiles with names like sexygalxx etc etc I wonder if their parents know?
The dangers on Facebook is pretty similar. Facebook’s convouted privacy settings has been the topic of much debate and descussions over the last year. While most children are pretty computer savvy, you have to ensure your child is educated enough to apply privacy settings to his or her profile that will protect them from some of the unwanted elemetns that frequent this site. yes, this means you may have to spend time and sit down with them. If you can reach a consensus with your child about why thes esettings are neccessary and which should be applied to their specific profiles you’ll not only improve your own poeaceof mind, you’ll also get the buy-in that comes only from understanding the risks from the side of the child. Remember to revisit these settings frequently (at leats as often as facebook changes the way it works!) to ensure it still delivers the protection you intended.
This all may sound very alarmist but I don’t see it that way, I just see it as being a responsible parent. If my daughter was playing outside I’d like to know who she was playing with, when she is using the computer I see it as part of my duty of care to her to know who she is talking to and more importantly who is trying to talk to her. Leave them to it with the blind faith that all will be OK or monitor, what do you do?