Sensible: everyone with children knows how addictive smartphone apps like Facebook and Snapchat and WhatsApp have become
For parents, the dizzying series of dangers that their families pose with the latest technology is surpassed by one threat over all others: social media.
Anyone with children in their teens or younger will know how addictive smartphone apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram have become.
Many hours are lost by staring at small screens while children chat with school friends or play games.
But as the Mail has repeatedly stressed, social media is dotted with all sorts of dangers for children who can be influenced.
The rise of & # 39; suicide games & # 39; those who focus on children, for example, will strike fear into every parent's heart.
The & # 39; Momo Challenge & # 39 ;, also called & # 39; Slenderman 2018 & # 39; is supposed to have started in a Facebook group. It is a creepy character called Momo who encourages children to add a contact to the message service WhatsApp. The contact will then chase the child with violent images and daring – frightening, the last is for the child to kill himself.
Meanwhile, the Blue Whale Challenge, which became notorious in 2016, urged participants to participate in a series of harmful tasks, such as cutting themselves, over a 50-day course.
More than 86 percent of children aged three to four years have access to a tablet at home, such as an iPad. One in five has their own computer. Approximately 76 percent of children aged six have access to devices such as smartphones. At the age of ten this is 92 percent; by 12, it is 96 percent.
What can parents do to ensure that their child is safe online?
With the help of experts, we reveal seven top strategies. . .
1) DO NOT START THE INTERNET
Our natural instincts are to protect our child by preventing them from going online at all.
But Maithreyi Rajeshkumar, policy and communications manager at children's online charity organization Childnet, says: & # 39; The Internet offers children and young people as much as possible to learn, connect and play.
Although you could set some rules – such as no internet after going to bed – limiting access may pose too many risks to alienate your child from his friends.
She adds: "Sites like Instagram and Facebook let young people be creative, keep in touch with friends and share photos & videos."
2) TALKING WITH YOUR CHILD
The most effective way to monitor your child's life online is through direct discussion.
Talk to strangers online with younger children. Inform them about scams and dangers by discussing open news about social media – if they have also come across, a conversation is opened.
Bring the dangers of online information sharing, passwords, bank details and photos.
Be alert to cyberbullying and sexting – talk about the risks of sharing private photos or posting hurtful comments. And if your child trusts you, do not react excessively.
Ms Rajeshkumar says: & # 39; If you give the impression that you think the Internet is bad, your child may not be concerned about worrying. & # 39;
3) GO ONLINE WITH THEM
Buy school uniform or research a new prescription? Ask your child to do the research for you.
Or search online together – teach your child to identify trusted websites, prevent fraud and buy goods safely. Download games together so you know they are from a reputable site – and make sure you both review reviews so you know they are suitable.
4) DO WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
Parents often feel that their child knows more than about technology, & # 39; says Mrs. Rajeshkumar.
But while it is important to remember that as a parent you are a life expert, it may be a good idea to join your child on social media.
For example, if your teenage daughter has confidentiality issues with her body and likes to follow a certain celebrity on Instagram, you may gain more insight into the influences and trends of social media if you follow that celebrity.
It also gives you a starting point for sensitive discussions.
5) USE TOOLS THAT ARE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN
Check websites and apps before younger children use them and make sure they use a computer in a busy part of the house, such as in the kitchen or in the living room.
You can adjust the settings on devices to block adult content, stop unsuitable in-app purchases, and even turn off the camera on a phone.
Meanwhile, your ISP, such as BT or TalkTalk, can provide free filters to block inappropriate content.
But technology should never be used to "babysit" your child. and it can not replace the conversation and supervision by you.
Although social media sites have a minimum user age of 13, your child or their friends can use them at home rather than before. Moreover, your safety tools have no effect when your child goes to a friend's house where there are none.
6) DO NOT SPIE ON THEM
Although many social media sites can give you valuable guarantees that your child is okay – Instagram and WhatsApp tell you both when someone was last active, which is reassuring when your older teenager is on the road – you should not use the Internet to sniff your child.
If you check your daughter's phone when she is sleeping, examine your son's internet history, use apps to check texts or keep track of children's whereabouts, this can have a negative effect on your child and accuse you of infringing on his privacy.
Likewise, responding to their Facebook messages could force them to use another social media site that you are not even aware of.
It is much better to develop a confidential face-to-face relationship.
7) SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
Do you always chat with friends online? Manage your child's online time by limiting yours, and suggest that you both make time available from the internet.
Even teenagers are never too old to enjoy an old-fashioned family day.