Over coffee with friends this morning the subject of how to help our children navigate the new internet landscape of social networking came up. Along with a rather scary story, about how a babysitter not only left the front door open...
When you live in a foreign place to you, you struggle with understanding often basic daily life requirements until your language abilities becomes advanced.We teach our children about the dangers outside the door - not to leave doors wide open, lock the car, don't talk or accept anything from strangers.
A true story. And it makes your heart skip a beat.
There was a scary story of a local mother who had the 15 year old babysitter from next door look after their four year old in her small French town. She came home at midnight to find the front door wide open, her four year old sleeping upstairs, but no babysitter. She found her next door, in her own home... it was very odd. A few days later she realised the iPad was missing. Then she got a call asking if she could unblock the iPad as the person on the end of the line had paid €250 for it and couldn't access... so she worked out that this must have had something to do with the babysitter. Turns out this teenager had met some others online and invited them over to the house she was babysitting at to meet them for the first time. Ug.
As a mature adult this story is unbelievable that anyone would do this. But it happened and it is true. The mother was left in a state of shock as to what could have been an alternative outcome for her family and child. A stolen iPad was minimal to what could have been... needless to say that babysitter will get no more work.
But not there are dangers online too that we have to contend with. Teaching our children how to handle these threats is very important. It is hard in conversation to really imply the importance of this as kids see the fun side of the internet first - video games. A popular first step for parents is to supervise closely the internet use - monitor all e-mails and friend on Facebook as well. But clever kids can get round these things easily. Video games now often have chat rooms open within them that players interact with each other on. Unless you are physically stood behind your child watching everything they do, there is no way of really knowing what is going on, or who they are talking to. In Facebook your child can create groups which exclude you from the conversation. You would never know. The list could go on. You can't oversee everything online, the same way you cannot in 'real' life. So education is the best first step.
I do believe the best way to get the point across is to ask your children to watch some of the great videos produced by child protection agencies that are created for the differing ages of your children. A video works on the emotional level far better than a conversation that may just feel like you are laying down the law.
The video in this blog was created in the UK by CEOPs Thinkuknow education programme that helps children to understand what constitutes personal information. This video is aimed at 8-10 year olds, but applies to all. Take a moment to watch it - then share with your children too if at this critical age where internet exploration and independence now starts. The ThinkUKnow assembly enables children to understand that they need to be just as protective of their personal information online, as they are in the real world. It also directs where to go and what to do if children are worried about any of the issues covered. For more information please visit: www.thinkuknow.co.uk
Internet Safety Tips : Be SMART
I hope this post helps you teach your children, wherever you are in the world. This weekend, sit down with your children and share this video and the SMART internet safety rules shown below. Every little helps.