Safer Internet Day: Parents Urged To Think About Kids' Online Safety From Moment They Start Using Phones

Resources and guidance for parents.

Parents are being urged to think about their children’s online safety from the very moment they start using a tablet or mobile phone.

To mark Safer Internet Day 2017, Internet Matters, an organisation raising awareness of issues kids experience when using the internet, found that six-year-olds are now as digitally advanced as 10-year-olds were three years ago.

The small-scale study involving 1,500 parents, showed there had been a 55% increase in the number of children browsing the internet since 2013.

Figures also showed 58% of six-year-olds were streaming videos from sites like YouTube - a 32% increase in three years.

“This shows the rapid pace of change in technology and how vital it is for parents to both set up devices safely and understand some of the risks involved when a child goes online,” said Carolyn Bunting, general manager of Internet Matters.

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Internet Matters also found the number of parents saying they always supervise their six-year-old child when they are online has decreased in the last three years from 53% to 43%.

“While we want to encourage children to explore and enjoy technology throughout their childhood, we also want to make sure parents are on top of exactly what they need to be doing to ensure they are doing it safely,” added Bunting.

It’s not only young children that parents should be monitoring, when it comes to online safety.

BT conducted an online poll of more than 4,500 adults, which found that the majority were not able to translate the real meaning of teenage texting codes, including MIA, KMS and the cryptic “99”.

More than half of parents were unaware the cheeky monkey emoji with paws over its mouth meant “I won’t tell anyone” and 65% of parents thought KMS meant “keep my secret” instead of “kill myself”.

Only 4% of adults could decipher MIA, an acronym used by some young people online when they are talking about eating disorder, bulimia.

Half of parents did not understand the terms 182 (I hate you), WTTP? (Want to trade pictures?) and (L)MIRL (Let’s meet in real life).

“It’s important for adults to speak to young people about how they use social media and chat online,” said Pete Oliver, managing director of commercial, marketing and digital at BT.

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who is an Internet Matters ambassador, said: “Parents need to be extra vigilant and arm their children with the tools to stay safe online. As well as setting up the relevant parental controls, it’s important to make sure you set boundaries when it comes to how your children use the internet at home.”

Peter Coe, an academic and lecturer in Law at Aston University developed what he calls the “green cross code” as a way for children to start thinking about the way they are engaging on social media.

He used the acronym ‘PAUSE’ for parents to teach their kids.

(P) Remember that everything you put online has the potential to be seen by anybody and everybody and that it can be PERMANENT.

(A) Before posting, tweeting, sharing, texting or uploading think about your AUDIENCE and how it could affect them and/or their opinion of you and others, now and later on.

(U) If you are still UNSURE ask for a second opinion from somebody you trust. Equally, if you receive a text, tweet, message or picture that you are UNSURE about tell somebody you trust.

(S) STOP AND THINK what impact your online activity may have on your privacy or reputation, or the privacy or reputation of others. Remember (P).

(E) If you are uncomfortable with anything that’s been tweeted, posted, shared or uploaded END your involvement immediately and tell somebody you trust.

The Department for Education and UK Safer Internet Centre have also released five tips for parents on internet safety.

1. Have an open and honest dialogue with children about staying safe online.

2. Encourage them to tell you which sites they might be using and talk to you about anything they see online.

3. Set boundaries and make an agreement on what they can and cannot do online. If the agreement is broken, restrict internet access for an agreed period of time.

4. Read up on information available through schools and official sites, such as ParentInfo, to make sure you are aware of issues and armed with information.

5. Arm your children with advice:

  • Be careful what you say online. Respect others and do not retaliate or reply to offending emails, text messages or online conversations – leave the conversation.

  • Be careful what pictures or videos you upload. Once a picture is shared online it cannot be taken back.

  • Only add people you know and trust to friends/followers lists online.

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