9 articles Tag Internet

Could We Live Without the Internet? #BroadbandandMe

I’m going to answer the above question here and now:

NO. I could not live without the internet!

I mean, obviously, my heart wouldn’t stop and I’d carry on breathing, but my life would be next to impossible without the internet. I work online through my blog and other remote writing jobs that I do. I do all of my banking online. I pay bills online. I shop online. I even pay for Sausage’s school meals online! We’ve had patchy connections a couple of times since living out in the countryside and it always makes life so much more difficult. LMS Group advises on updating your broadband provider regularly to ensure you’re getting the best deal available

Aside from all of the practical stuff we do online, most of our entertainment revolves around having an internet connection, too; the girls use their tablets online, we watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, we use it for catch-up TV and online gaming. We would be SO BORED without an internet connection! I also spend a lot of time researching recipes on the internet, now that we eat a ketogenic diet – our meals would be incredibly limited if I wasn’t able to use the internet for inspiration and recipes.

TalkTalk Business have asked me to talk about #BroadbandandMe, which is why I’m sharing all of this with you. Husband and I have toyed with the idea of getting a business line for our broadband on many an occasion because we both work from home and it would mean that repairs would be guaranteed to be dealt with in a much shorter time frame if anything ever went wrong with our connection. There has been a couple of occasions where I’ve needed to email a client and let them know that I may not meet a deadline because of patchy internet and it never gives a very professional impression to people I rely on for work.

When you’re a freelancer, there’s always the worry that someone else is going to come along with a smaller fee or a shorter turnaround period and steal work away from you, so having a reliable internet connection is imperative in that situation. Being freelance can feel a bit scary and irregular at times, so knowing you have a good internet connection backing you up goes a long way to making you feel a little bit more secure in your job.

What does your family use the internet for? Is it something you think you could live without? Have you ever done one of those crazy internet detoxes where you ban all internet devices for a period of time? Do leave me a comment below and let me know how you and your family feel about all of this! Thanks for reading.

Getting Ahead with Spires Online Tutoring

Spires Online TutoringWe’ve been toying with the idea of getting Sausage a tutor for some time now. I’ve written before about her lack of confidence in maths and how she’s incredibly bright but seems to get flustered with numbers, and also about how she’s adamant that she wants to do her 11+ and I do worry that her own nerves will get the better of her. The issue we have with private tutoring is two-fold. Firstly, one-to-one tutoring can be expensive, and although it’s possible to buddy up with another family and pay for the tutor together, the second issue is that we live in the middle of nowhere, seriously limiting the amount of tutors who’d even come to us (and giving us a far shallower talent pool to choose from, in much the same way as smaller, rural schools).

The obvious answer is online tutoring, which is where Spires comes in. Spires is an online tutoring site which offers tutors from Oxford and Cambridge and all of their work is done via the internet which means that our location is no longer an issue. It also means that costs are kept down because travel isn’t a worry – a Spires tutor could effectively sit at their desk for eight hours a day and tutor solidly the whole time, without ever needing to move!

One thing that I absolutely LOVE about the Spire ethos is that they’re aiming to level the educational playing field by offering top-class tutoring to ANYONE, rather than only priviledged kids at the top schools getting all of the benefits. They say on their site:

“No matter how much the UK’s top universities are said to encourage entrants from the state sector, the reality remains – students from the best independent schools consistently have a far greater chance of entering the best universities.

So we asked ourselves:

What could we offer to maximise the chance of any student getting into a university worthy of their intelligence, ability and potential regardless of their background?

We attended one of the best universities in the world and we were oblivious to just how lucky we had been. Only at Oxford did we begin to appreciate the unfair advantage that going to a top private school had given us in getting into a top university. At school, we were drilled, tutored and trained to get those places.

We were coached over and above the curriculum. If we were struggling with any element of our studies – great tutors were available, around the clock one-on-one – to fix that problem.

We created Spires to provide the one-on-one tutoring experience that gave us the edge in our final exams. Our aim is to make that experience affordable to as many parents as possible and level the playing field in those pre university examination years”

I went to a really good grammar school for my secondary education and was lucky enough to get in despite living WELL out of the catchment area, but my parents couldn’t have afforded tutors because they were expensive (and probably non-existent in a town like Basildon anyway…), although I know lots of other girls have them, so it’s really good to know that my kids won’t be at a disadvantage if they ever need help with their studies.

 

Staying Safe on the Internet with BT and Unicef

When I was little, things were very different to how they are now that I have children. The Internet was unheard of until I reached senior school and phones were something that sat on a dedicated table in the hallway and could only be used after 6pm. Bullying was obviously a thing, but it seems now that the Internet and mobile communication has made the scope for bullying SO much wider. Before, bullies would wait for you in corridors at school, whereas now they can reach you even in the privacy of your own bedroom through the ‘net.

BT has linked up with Unicef to create The Right Click, a series of workshops for parents and kids around internet safety, which not only looks at cyber-bullying, but also at helping kids to find safe, appropriate content and use the internet in a way that is both empowering and secure. Watch this video for more:

Pete Oliver, commercial and marketing director, BT Consumer, said: “The internet is a powerful tool, especially for children. The time children are spending online is continuing to grow, particularly with children aged 8-111. This can be daunting for parents that aren’t necessarily digital savvy and most parents (94 per cent) have worries about their children online. However, with the right knowledge, communication and parental controls in place, we can all ensure that the internet can be a safe place.”

Catherine Cottrell, Unicef UK Deputy Executive Director, said: “We’re working with schools across the country to create safe and inspiring places to learn, where children are respected and their rights are protected. The Right Click: Internet Safety Matters workshops empower children to become confident and responsible digital citizens, enabling them to enjoy the enormous benefits that the internet has to offer, with the help of parents and teachers.”

I think workshops like this are SO vital – Husband and I are both pretty tech-savvy but I know SO many adults who have more or less resigned themselves to the fact that their kids are more adept at using technology than they are which creates almost a power vacuum around the subject of internet usage. The kids know more about it all but are almost expected to self moderate because the adults don’t know WHAT the kids need to be protected against! Keeping knowledge fresh is the only way to increase safety, which is why I commend BT and Unicef for creating this programme.

Head to the BT Internet Safety Matters page to test your family on how much they know about the internet.

Stay Safe Online with Azoomee

In the past, I’ve admitted to being a helicopter parent and although I am still pretty overbearing involved in Sausage’s life, I do try to step back a little now that she’s getting older. Although she’s one of the youngest in her school year, she’ll be going into Year 4 in September, which means that that it’s won’t be long until boys and secrets with her friends are on the agenda. As someone who was mortified to discover her mother read her diary when she was a teenager, I firmly believe that kids should be given respect and privacy, but this can be tricky in modern life because of the Internet.

The best thing we can do is to properly educate our kids about staying safe online and self-moderation, so that we can afford them a little more autonomy and not have them feel like we’re looking over their shoulders all the time. That’s why, when I heard that Azoomee had teamed up with the NSPCC to create an app, including a series of lessons for kids about staying safe online, I was thrilled. Take a look at what it offers here:

Azoomee from Azoomee on Vimeo.

The Azoomee app is available on both Android and Apple (there’s a free 15-day trial available), and it’s basically an all-encompassing safe space for kids to use. Within the app, kids can choose to do arts and crafts, play games or watch kid-friendly TV shows. The art section allows kids to share their creations with friends and family who’ve been pre-approved by a parent, which means that kids can still communicate through the app without needing to use an unsecured and potentially unsafe messaging app.

What’s more, this summer Azoomee is running a series of FREE, weekly, interactive learning sessions based on Search It Up, an animated series on digital literacy and online safety. Search It Up was produced by Azoomee, written by BAFTA winner, Dave Ingham and created by BAFTA award winning production studio, ArthurCox.

I love the fact that the Azoomee is suitable for both of my kids as there’s content within that suits all ages, meaning that we don’t need to have two different services running for each of them. At the end of the day, anything that’s able to give parents a little bit of peace of mind is worth every penny in my opinion! Sausage is getting a phone for her birthday (shh! don’t tell!) so this would be the perfect way to ease her into the responsibility of having her own device.

How much does a subscription to Azoomee cost?

Premium (Full access for up to five children in a single family)
  • Monthly subscription: £4.99
  • 6-monthly subscription: £29.95
  • Annual subscription: £44.93 (three months free!)

You can also follow Azoomee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or go and have a read of their blog which is packed full of useful info.

Is this the  sort of thing you’d install for your child? Have you already tried Azoomee and love it? Leave me a comment below!

Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

I’ve always been a huge fan of kids using technology; I know lots of people think that screen time is negative for kids, and I agree that all things should be in moderation, but I strongly believe that children can learn a lot from various apps and programs and that they should have time on devices without us leaning over their shoulders.

Sausage is at an age now where her interest in the internet has evolved slightly. No longer is she spending ages on the Cbeebies website or using the Mister Maker app to make beautiful, fridge-worthy creations. Now, she’s also asking about websites (like the ones you see advertised on the TV) which allow users to not only play games, but chat with one another too, which really concerns me. I have no objections to her chatting with friends online, but these websites are SO often a completely unknown quantity and can be a portal to online bullying, which is why I was keen to help when a cyber-bullying charity got in touch. Here’s what they had to say:

To mark this year’s Stop Cyberbullying Day on Friday 17 June, anti-bullying charity Bullies Out has partnered with data analytics firm Online Them to raise awareness of the risks of cyberbullying and what parents can do to spot the warning signs in time.

Monitoring software such as Online Them enables parents and teachers to keep an eye on children’s online activities and highlight any causes for concern. Any monitoring of online activity tends to spark handwringing sermons about the right to privacy. But this is not another example of Big Brother clipping the wings of youngsters trying to explore the world and all the opportunities that brings. Nor does it give parents and teachers free reign to spy on children.

Tools using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing can identify and highlight anything of concern or unusual to an individual child such as social media posts containing adult content, or mentions of crime, as well as flagging any new friends in countries outside the UK and a rank of who a child is interacting with most on social media. This is done on a consent-only basis, meaning a child has to agree to the use of software to monitor their high-level social media use. Consent can be given easily and quickly via an email invitation – all they have to do is click the attached link and authorize access to their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. They can connect all three accounts or just one or two.

Monitoring tools present a great way to hold a child’s hand as they enter the world of social media. Parents and teachers can both use these tools to safeguard children in a low-maintenance and non-intrusive way.

Sausage uses her own iPad and laptop, both of which are internet enabled and I really don’t like to be hanging over her shoulder the whole time, so using an online monitoring software would really give us peace of mind. She’s not allowed anywhere NEAR Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any of the other places where random people could gain access to her, and Husband and I will be thinking long and hard about whether she’ll ever be allowed accounts on these sites, while she’s under our rules.

If you want some really handy tips on how to keep your kids safe online, take a look at the Bullies Out site, where there is a whole wealth of information, and also links to allow you to donate to this excellent cause. Online Them are also currently offering a free one month trial for parents, allowing you to try the site before you commit to a subscription.

How do you moderate your kids online usage? Have you got any apps installed? Have you ever had to deal with cyber-bullying? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment below.

Dating in 2014

love-online-datingOkay, so I’m probably not the best person to comment on the dating scene in 2014 – I was lucky enough to meet Husband when I was 21, get married at 22 and have been happily with him ever since (8 years last Saturday, in case you’re interested!). However, Husband and I have had the “what-if” conversation plenty of times, and the thought of getting back onto the dating scene as it was when I was in my early 20’s fills me with dread.

When I met Husband, I may have been a bit of a social butterfly, but these days, bars and clubs are SO not my scene, not to mention the fact that I’m probably 10 years too old to be going to the places I used to frequent. The thought of doing the “eye contact over the bar, is he looking at me, is he smiling or does he have wind?” thing all over again is not appealing in the slightest, so I totally understand why internet dating has become so popular.

There are some great sites around, such as iwantu.com which allow you to meet people, engage in free adult chat, and make a connection without having to drag yourself to places in which you don’t feel comfortable. The other good thing about free adult sites is that everyone knows why everyone else is there. You won’t approach someone in a bar, only to find they’re married or taken, and feel completely embarrassed – if someone is on one of these sites, like upforit.com, they’re there because they’re available and looking for love, which will remove the potential for awkwardness.

Of course, because we’re all grown ups here, you might be looking for something a little less commitment heavy and a little more fleeting, so a site like shagaholic.com might be more appropriate for you. Everyone needs a little…companionship…from time to time and seeking out other people with the same intentions can be really fun and empowering, if done safely.

Several of my single friends have tried internet dating, some with more success than others, but I think it all very much depends on your expectations. If you keep things light and fun, there’s a lot of potential for a good time to be had by all and it can mean that you can engage with people without having to even leave your living room – what’s not to love about that?!

Have you had any dating successes by using an online site? I’d love to hear from you.

Is Cyberbullying a Problem for Your Child?

Post provided by quib.ly

A survey commissioned by the Anti-Bullying Alliance has uncovered some very worrying statistics. 60.5% of UK parents believe that cyberbullying is part of everyday life for their children. The survey also asked parents whether they felt they were equipped to deal with the problems raised by cyberbullying. 40% of parents stated that they did not know how to handle cyberbulling issues, whilst 44% of teachers admitted that they didn’t know how to cope with instances of cyberbullying.

These are worrying statistics, but is the problem really as significant as parents and teachers think? The parenting advice website quib.ly investigates…

Is cyberbulling a widespread problem?

So it’s clearly a concern for parents and teachers, but does reality reflect these grown up worries about cyberbullying? In England at least it looks like the problem is not being overstated. 55% of kids surveyed claimed that they see cyberbulling as part of everyday life.

But the facts and figures vary. In March 2013, the NSPCC came out with research which suggested that 38% of children have been affected by the practice. It’s a very difficult thing to monitor. Children have very different perceptions of the issue – for those only indirectly involved, it may not seem like bullying. For the perpetrators of this type of online abuse, speaking honestly about the problem is not possible. Meanwhile, the media are always ready with shock stories which can trigger parental fears and cause more of a panic than necessary.

It does look like there is some disparity between the concerns of adults and the concerns of children on the issue. Just 40% of kids think that cyberbullying and how to deal with it should be included on the national curriculum. Meanwhile 69% of teachers believe that the issue should be incorporated into mandatory lessons at school.

Whatever the percentage of affected children – the figures are still too high. No children should experience persecution online. Whether you’re looking at the highest figure (60.5%) or the lower statistics (38%), these are not negligible figures. The problem needs to be tackled.

Is my child affected by cyberbulling?

In this climate it is understandable for parents to be concerned about their children online. It is difficult for children to speak out about cyberbullying and they may not even recognise that this is a problem affecting them. If you are worried that your child may be a victim of cyberbullying, there are a few warning signs to look out for:

  • Visible nervousness when receiving text and email alerts
  • Hides or closes computer and phone screens when you’re around
  • Withdrawal from friends and peers
  • Impaired academic performance
  • Loss of appetite, volatile moods, noticeable change in behaviour

Of course a lot of these signs are normal teenage behaviour associated with hormonal changes and teenage life. That’s why it’s important to talk to your child about cyberbullying and what’s going on in their life.

How to address the issue

Talk to your children. Make sure they know that you will be supportive no matter what people are saying online. Let them know you are in their corner and will do everything you can to protect them from online bullies.

If your child is evasive, it may be time to take a closer look at browser histories, emails and text messages. This is a drastic step as it constitutes as invasion of privacy, but if you find evidence of cyberbullying it’s crucial not to be angry and present a supportive shoulder for your child. The next step is taking the issue to a trusted teacher or, in extreme cases, to the police.

Warm My Cockles

The other day, I was talking to one of my Mother in Laws; she’s from Arkansas, where by next Monday they’ll be enjoying highs of 29°c, and has only lived in the UK for a couple of years. Our weather doesn’t sit hugely well with her, understandably, and she said that our winter has been so long and so wet that she feels like the damp has soaked into her bones. I TOTALLY understand that feeling, this winter has been far too long and it really doesn’t seem to be getting much better.

Last weekend, we had a day of nice-ish weather and because we live by the sea (or an estuary, if you want to be picky) we took Sausage to the seafront for an afternoon of arcades and doughnuts. When we got there we realised that not only had the majority of our town and the surrounding areas descended upon the prominade, but that most of them were very scantily dressed! It may have been sunny, but there was still a nip in the air, and I was shocked that everyone was so under-dressed. However, it got me to thinking; if people are thinking that this is all the summer we’re going to get, maybe they should be taking this opportunity to soak up some vitamins from the sun!

What we really need is a holiday, go somewhere where the sun is warm, the food is good and the sea is blue. Somewhere where we think more about suncream than raincoats, eat outdoors without worrying about getting soggy sandwiches and visit the beach in beachwear, not thick coats and hiking boots! It’s not all that easy for us to get away because we have Chuck to think about, but if we were to go aomewhere I’d be doing some serious discount hunting on the internet! I don’t know if it’s because I was born in the summer, but I’m definitely more of a fan of the warmer weather. My underactive thyroid means I’m cold most of the time but as soon as it gets to the end of March, I start to wonder when I can get my Birkenstocksand Havaianas out of the wardrobe and onto my feet.

Anyone got any good tips on how I can warm my cockles without spending a fortune or needing a dog-sitter?! Answers on a postcard, please…

OH NOEZ, NOT TEH INTERNETZ!

So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve made a couple of changes on my blog. First of all, I’ve removed any trace of my daughter’s name from my posts, and have removed the post which contained pictures of her. Secondly, I’ve also removed my Husband’s name from all of the posts.

They will, forever more, be known in the blogosphere as “Sausage” and “Husband”.

Now, I’m well aware that this may seem like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, but I’ve only had really positive feedback so far, so I’m hoping the nice readers that I’ve had up until are not the type to go and use our identities for nefarious purposes.

When I started this blog, if I’m totally honest, I didn’t really think anyone outside of my friends and family would read it, but I had moderate interest from others and, whilst this is a pleasant surprise, I now feel a bit like I’ve hung my family out for all to inspect.

I will continue to mention Husband and Sausage in my posts, but I’ll try not to be as…personal. The older I get, the more I find the internet to be a scary place. I don’t want pictures of my kid to be found on hard drives of dodgy people and I don’t want our identities to be somehow used against us.

I hope you’ll continue to read, and bear with me while I adjust to their new monikers.