I’m sure I’m not alone in letting my 5-year-old use a tablet to play games or watch YouTube videos – allowing her to use ours is the only way we manage to get to sleep past 05:30!
We all know what to tell teenagers about being safe on the internet – be careful in chat rooms, don’t put personal details on Facebook, don’t send naked photos to your boyfriend! – but a lot of parents don’t realise that we also need to be vigilant with much younger children.
You might think your kids are safe because they don’t know about chat rooms or social networks yet, but it’s worth having a think about what they do look at.
Here are some tips on how to keep kids safe online…
It seems that most young children are a bit addicted to YouTube these days. Whether it’s watching people unbox toys, doing make-up tutorials or watching episodes of Peppa Pig, our kids can find enough videos to interest them for hours.
The worry with YouTube is that you can click through to recommended videos and end up watching something completely different to what you started on. Little H was watching My Little Pony cartoons one minute and the next she was watching some awful horror video game called Five Nights at Freddy’s – thank god I was sat next to her at the time!
If your child is a little YouTube addict it might be worth replacing the app with YouTube Kids. It’s an official app that’s much more child-friendly both in its use and in the content. There are also parental controls that allow you to set time limits or restricted searching. So far we haven’t come across anything dodgy on this app.
The natural progression from watching YouTube videos is kids wanting to make and upload their own videos to be the next Zoella or DanTDM.
Little H hasn’t quite worked out how to shoot a video on the tablet yet, but she got a VTech Kidizoom Action Cam for her birthday and has taken loads of videos of herself playing with her toys or scooting along.
She has begged me to add the videos to YouTube but I’m not really comfortable with this. I don’t like to mention her name on my blog or post too many of photos of her as I don’t think it’s a good idea for too much information about her to be public, there are far too many weirdos about these days. This is why my Facebook is private and I have a different Instagram for friends to see photos of her.
Putting content online
If you do allow your child to put video content or photos online there are a few things you should be aware of…
- Don’t allow kids to mention personal details like their name, hometown or school.
- Make sure they don’t film videos where the front of their house or the street name is visible.
- Recording a video or taking a photo in their bedroom or while wearing school uniform could attract attention from the wrong kind of people.
- Any video or photo could receive negative comments – how would your child cope with being trolled?
- Are they likely to be teased if school friends see the video – for example, will they be made fun of if they’ve filmed themselves playing with toys?
- If they do get embarrassed by the videos or photos at a later date, it may be difficult to remove all traces of it from the internet as you have no control of where they have been shared.
Little H is a master at finding new games and installing them onto the tablet, I didn’t ever show her how to do it she just worked it out like I’m sure many kids do. At the moment she’s only really interested in Disney games, Dr Panda, or Princess nail salon apps, but once they know how to find and download games they could obviously find all sorts – you probably don’t want your little one downloading Grand Theft Auto or something similar.
It’s definitely a good idea to keep an eye on what your child is downloading and ensure that there are no apps that have public access to any videos or photos they might take. You probably already have a password in place to stop them from downloading anything that costs money, this would hopefully stop them from downloading games like GTA anyway.
With some games – such as Minecraft or Sims – you can interact with other players. Unfortunately, it’s not always children playing these games, and it’s a prime place to target young children. With a lot of these games, you can change the settings so that you are playing by yourself, I’ve done this with Minecraft and Little H has no idea. Admittedly it would be harder to fool slightly older children, so make sure you know what the games they are playing involve.
You can set up parental controls with your broadband provider, directly on a smartphone or tablet, and within many apps and games to make sure that your child can’t access any adult content. Some tablets even have settings to turn off the WiFi after a certain amount of time so that you can restrict the amount of time they use them for. We have a Fire HD Kids Tablet which is great for setting parental controls and time limits.
I am so glad that online bullying wasn’t a thing when I was growing up – dealing with it at school was bad enough, but nowadays kids can be bullied by their peers in the comfort of their own home as well.
Whilst hopefully not something that younger children will have to deal with, it’s worth parents being aware of the dangers as it may be something to watch out for as our children grow up. Cyberbullying can include texts, emails or messages on social networking sites, and the scariest bit is that they can be anonymous.
If you notice that your child seems upset after being online they could be a victim of cyberbullying.
Talk To Your Kids
It’s quite hard to know how much to tell younger children about staying safe – similar to having the ‘stranger danger’ chat without scaring them. It’s definitely a good idea to warn them about chatting with people online, encourage them to tell you if anyone tries to start a conversation with them or asks them for photos.
Make sure that they know never to tell anyone their name, address or what school they go to. You also want them to know that if anyone is mean to them, says anything nasty, or if they see something they don’t like, they should let you know.
Keep an eye on them
As lovely as it is to be able to get on with a few chores while they sit quietly, it’s also a good idea to sit with them and watch what they do on the phone or tablet. Play the games with them, check what they are searching for and keep an eye on their search history.
I hope you’ve found these tips on how to keep young children safe online useful if you’re still worried about your child using the internet maybe have a chat with their school as they will no doubt have come across these issues before.