Do you know what your children are doing online?

Giving us access to an entire universe of information at the click of a mouse, the internet is a fantastic resource for young people’s education and development. However, with so much out there and so many new networks, sites and apps springing up every day, it can be difficult for parents to keep up with what their children are doing online.

The internet is vast place and unfortunately there are lots of inappropriate sites, online predators and dangerous behaviour that both children and parents need to be aware of.

Why do I need to know what my children are doing online?

From sexting and bullying to sexual approaches from strangers and extreme websites, the internet is full of potential hazards for young, impressionable and curious minds. It’s hugely important that parents and carers know how to protect their children online, approach them about the dangers of the internet and know where to turn if they’re concerned about online sexual exploitation.

Though a lot of parents monitor online activity and believe they know enough about the internet to keep their children safe, according to a 2012 study by McAfee, fourth-fifths of teenagers say they know how to hide their online behaviour from their parents.

The issue is now even more important as over half of British teenagers have internet access in their bedrooms, with an increasing number also able to access the web via their smartphones and tablets.

In many cases, parents are unaware of the potentially harmful content of some websites and social media networks, with many children hiding any abuse, bullying or inappropriate contact from their parents for fear of having their internet enabled devices confiscated.

How can I protect my children when they’re online?

Though many children won’t be seriously affected by online activity, there are an increasing number of cases of unsolicited contact from strangers, for example online grooming. For this reason, we’re often sharing advice on topics such as keeping safe during webcam conversations and how to spurn unwanted online advances. Teaching children about internet security and how to stay safe online is one of the best ways to prevent them getting into trouble as they surf the web. Prevention is always better than cure and it’s better to dedicate the time to protecting your young people now, rather than dealing with the emotional and potentially physical consequences of online exploitation later.

Cal Davies, 16

Sexting (sending explicit images online and via smartphones) is becoming more common and young people can easily fall victim to revenge porn and exploitation by sharing images with the wrong person or giving out too many personal details.

Most internet enabled devices allow parents to block inappropriate content, allowing them to filter what their children or teens can access. Though around 98% of parents agree that protecting children online is necessary, according to Microsoft, only 50% of parents use these family friendly functions, with the other 50% either unaware how to activate the filters or have simply not got round to enabling the settings.

With more and more devices now internet enabled and young people becoming ever more tech savvy, keeping children safe online is increasingly important. It’s essential, therefore, for all parents to educate themselves and their children about the potential hazards and dangers of the web.

boy2

By teaching children about online security from a young age and using available filters and custom blocks, parents can help to protect their children from the dark side of the web and help them to make the right choices about their online behaviour in the future.

For more information check out our previous blog ‘Staying Safe Online: Chat Rooms, Social Media And More’, contact us or visit the parents section of our Jigsaw education programme.