Mum of two and author of ‘Protecting our children in cyber-space’ – Kerry-Ann Ferreira advises parents how to keep children safe in the online world.
Is your smartphone or mobile device screen constantly covered in tiny fingerprint smudges? Does your child download apps that you don’t have a clue about? You’re not alone if your child is more tech savvy than you are. Research from MobileYouth.org (www. mobileyouth.org) puts the average age of first phone ownership at 7.1 years in Europe. Even those young children who don’t personally own a mobile phone are still likely to access and use the phones of others.
There is no doubt that these devices are fantastic learning aids but there are risks that children and young people may access inappropriate content, or content and services that just aren’t designed for their age group. Likewise they might engage in communication – whether by text messaging, instant messaging (IM) or via social networking sites (SNS) – that is not necessarily appropriate. So what can wee as parents do about cyber safety?
Mum of two, Kerry-Ann Ferreira from Co. Down was inspired to write her first book – Protecting Our Children in Cyberspace after a relative went through cyber bullying. “I started doing some research on the whole area of cyber bullying, it really opened my eyes up to it. Children can now take their playground fights online.” Researching the subject, Kerry-Ann quickly realised that there were few practical guides available on how to set safety settings on devices so she set about creating a book that would be relevant to all parents of children aged 11 and under.
“There are huge benefits to the internet in how we communicate, for studies and in work, therefore removing my children from the digital world was not practical nor in their best interests. However, I was determined to keep my children safe online and a key component of this was upscaling my own knowledge of their technologies… and quickly!” explains Kerry-Ann. “From chat rooms, to sharing images, to gaming consoles, it seems that the world can connect with our children unless we educate them on fact and fiction, and put in place safety settings to mitigate the chances of our children being exposed to unsuitable content.”
A guide for parents
With advice on ‘privacy settings’ to ‘rules of engagement’, Protecting Our Children in Cyberspace outlines practical steps for parents on their children’s’ online behaviour and how to help create a safe online environment for young children. Kerry-Ann is planning to set up a website following on from the book. 10% of proceeds from Protecting Our Children in Cyberspace will go to the Cybersmile Foundation.
Kerry-Ann’s top tips for protecting children online:
1. Understand your child’s device and what, when and how they can access the internet.
2. Our children learn and develop behaviours that they see and experience – we, as responsible adults, must model good and healthy online behaviour that our children can emulate.
3. Childproof the cyber world by activating parental controls on your child’s device. The majority of the current devices already have built in software.
4. Set guidelines and boundaries. This includes proper online conduct, what to do if they come across content that makes them uncomfortable and what sites they are permitted to access.
5. Position the family computer in a communal area. In this way you are offering your child the best safety software with the highest and most robust parental controls… you are offering them yourself! In this way you can monitor their behaviour – this will give you a good indication if things are not as they should be.
6. Teach children the importance of privacy and privacy settings and be clear about what information they can share online and what information they must not. Personally identifiable information can act like bread crumbs that lead straight to your front door!
7. Communicate regularly with your children about their online activities and show an interest: encourage them to share their experiences and what they are doing online.
8. Teach children online social responsibility. The internet is an open and shared environment. We can instill in them a sense of community in which all interactions are friendly and fair.
9. Let your children know they can come to you about anything or anyone online without fear of reprisal and, if a problem does arise, it should be dealt with in a calm and rational manner to ensure that your children will continue to confide in you if/ when they encounter problems.
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