In today's world, technology and social media are at every turn - it's important to know how to monitor your children's technology for unsuitable content.
The technology children can access is enabling more kids than ever before to not only access unsuitable content but to watch it. Many parents are unaware that once their child has a phone or a tablet that they have access to such content and even if they think their kids are on a game or online video there is still a chance that they could come across content that could scare them, influence them or confuse them.
Explicit content is popping up all over the internet and kids are being targeted with this type of content with videos that look like children’s programmes being anything, but children orientated. There have been reports of children viewing unsuitable content but also, viewing content that could be damaging for their health. Children’s programmes and cartoons are portrayed as being “family friendly” but they simulate cartoon characters in adult situations and with extremely adult themes.
The risk is that children could not necessarily be looking for unsuitable content but it can find them. There is also the risk that children will look for unsuitable content. Whether it is by being inquisitive or wanting to watch what other pals may be talking about in class, children need to be taught about safety online and how watching stuff they know they shouldn’t be is wrong and dangerous.
Children who play games or are on social networking sites are more at risk than other children who are not on these platforms. Playing games is ok if the content is for their age but with online gaming and social network sites full of underage children, it is hard for these children to not see things they shouldn’t.
As parents, we need to understand why the age restrictions are on games and social networking sites – for your child’s safety. We know many parents don’t follow the rules and lots of kids are using these sites with parental knowledge and this adds pressure to other parents, but this can’t be allowed.
Unsuitable content is subjective, and many parents wouldn’t see some forms of content as unsuitable while other kids don’t scare as easily. However, your child is the one that matters, and they could watch something wholly inappropriate and it could upset them greatly.
Also, we aren’t just talking about scary movies or a film with a lot of swearing either as children are accessing content that includes pornographic material, racism, vandalism, eating disorders and suicide as well as sites that encourage violence towards people or animals with images and videos too. Chat rooms are other issues, and these are a huge risk to young people as well as sites that glorify gambling, sexism, alcoholism and drug use.
Keep children safe by supervising their tech devices, using parental and network controls, and apps available to monitor them and their online activity. If they love watching videos, use the dedicated YouTubeKids app or the new YouTubeKids.com platform. Ensure your child isn’t left alone with devices in their room and has screen-free times at home. Having a Family Agreement in place for both adults and children can be a powerful way to model and monitor online behaviour and device etiquette. Click here for a sample agreement from CyberSafeIreland.
Speak to your child about unsuitable content, as many kids fall upon sites accidentally, ensuring that they understand the risks and talk about how to react appropriately when faced with harmful content or questionable contact will help build resilience.
Monitor their online platforms and search history and keep to the age restrictions regardless of the pressure they place on you - go with your gut. Talk to other parents and share experiences and successful strategies that have worked for you. If you think your child is watching something unsuitable, talk to them and agree on suitable punishments. Remember that a knee-jerk ban or removal of devices can often dissuade children from coming to talk to you in the future, and may drive online behaviour underground, making it harder to monitor.
Check message apps regularly and introduce one app at a time to show they are responsible enough to build up to a few apps; keep an eye on friends and follower lists too: most children do not know 100 people (or more)! Make it clear that you have full control over apps and pages till they are old enough or responsible enough to be trusted fully.
Don’t forget to have an ‘open door’ policy where your child can tell you anything, whether it is for watching something they didn’t mean to, or knew that they shouldn't have.
This content has been checked and certified by Cyber Safe Ireland whose mission is to empower children, parents and teachers to navigate the online world in a stronger, smarter and safer way.