Today is Safer Internet Day 2017. This year UK Safer Internet Centre are encouraging us all to “Be the Change” for a better internet. When it comes to ensuring that our children remain safe online, a lot of this responsibility lies with parents and carers of children.
When the current generation of twenty somethings were in their formative years, the BBFC classification of the latest blockbuster and the television watershed guided parents through the minefield of content that their children should be exposed to. I remember being an 11-year-old dinosaur fanatic, incredibly excited to see the (underwhelming) sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World. Rated a 12, my parents had recorded it onto VHS for me to watch but only on the condition that they saw it first, in order to vet the content. In the end, my curiosity and excitement got the better of me, and one morning before school my alarm went off at 5am, I crept downstairs (avoiding the creaky ones) and viewed the film from start to finish over a bowl of dry Frosties. My covert operation was foiled by my lack of foresight. I had failed to rewind the tape after viewing, and once my parents saw that the reel of film now sat entirely on the right, my rouse was rumbled.
Nowadays, children don’t have to go to these lengths to view content which their parents might not approve of. Social media is now ubiquitous, especially amongst children. The digital lives that we and our children lead have come a long way since the early days of the now ancestral Myspace. It should come as no surprise that photo-sharing has become the most popular way for young people to share experiences with one another. A picture paints a thousand words, which is certainly apt when your word count is limited to 140 characters.
Internet Live Stats reports that 765 photos are posted to Instagram every second. The platform is becoming more popular than Facebook amongst the younger generation along with Snapchat. The ‘temporary’ nature of the 10-second photo-messaging service has resulted in a surge in young people sending sexually explicit photos, with 22% of teens having sent a nude image or video to someone. Children seem to be unaware that, after 10 seconds, a private image that they have sent to their friend(s) can be made public (even viral) in no time at all. Raising awareness of the permanence of online content is now more important than ever. Nothing is ever truly eradicated once it has been shared online. What goes online, stays online and children must be made aware of this and some simple ground-rules set for their own safety in order to discourage the sharing of content that they wouldn’t be happy for their nan to see.
Allowing children unrestricted access to explore the internet and social media is like dropping them at the door of a Blockbuster and adult video store all rolled into one and telling them to ‘be safe’. Curiosity will always get the better of them. And while there are now plenty of parental settings and controls provided by ISPs, social media is much more difficult to police and monitor in the same way. The majority of content creators and editors that fill our news feeds aren’t large organisations, or registered businesses. They are the 1,590 million people on Facebook and millions of others across various other sites, with new favourites appearing all the time. And whilst the vast majority of content is just another cat video or amateur photograph of an unappetising meal, there will always be exceptions to the rule.
In reality it’s not practical or fair to wrap children in bubble wrap. They are naturally curious and keen to explore, and there’s no greater expanse for exploration than the world wide web. Children are now connected 24/7, and for parents it can be impossible to know which content they are engaging with and who they are speaking to. Online Them is a tool that allows you to monitor your child’s social media activity without invading their privacy, ensuring that both trust and respect are maintained between parent and child. Our solution allows your children the freedom to explore social media, whilst keeping them insight, ensuring their safety and your peace of mind.