3 articles Tag social media

Keeping Kids Safe Online in the Holidays

In previous years, the summer holidays have meant that Sausage mostly just sees her friends on her birthday (which is in August) or if I manage to arrange playdates with her friends, by contacting their parents. This year, however, seems to be a whole different kettle of fish. Sausage is going into year 5 in September and seems to be growing up before our very eyes. She has her own iPhone, iPad, laptop etc, and so do many of her friends, which means that she’s able to communicate with them as and when she likes, within the bounds of when she’s allowed device time. We aren’t MEGA strict with her when it comes to devices, but we do try to get her to put them down for at least an hour before bed so that the blue light from screens doesn’t interfere with her sleep.

The communication versus online safety thing has been playing on our minds, however. She’s not allowed a Facebook account because she’s too young, although we do know kids of her age who are on there. Snapchat’s recent update has left us with security worries and we’ve got her account locked down because it’s a site which is well known for being an avenue for grooming. She currently uses WhatsApp or iMessage to speak to her friends, but we still worry about the lack of security with these; it would only take one of her friends to give someone her phone number or leave their own device unlocked for someone to be able to attempt to contact her and it’s something that is a constant source of worry for us.

Just recently, Azoomee got in contact with us to let us know about their new chat features and it seems like something which could be the answer to all of our worries. Azoomee Chat was built for children. It’s not an adult platform re-designed for kids! Key features which make Azoomee Chat best practice are:

  • Communication between two children only takes place if a parent for each child has verified the connection
  • There is no geo-tracking data
  • There are no group chats (which is where cyber-bullying begins) opnly one-to-one communication
  • There are no photos or face-time (we use personalised avatars instead)
  • There are lots of pointers in case a child needs advice
  • Parents have full visibility of all communication
  • Only pre-verified friends can see your posts

Every child has their own Kid Code; it looks like this: GF6D7XS2. You’ll find your child’s Kid Code in the Azoomee Settings screen. Your child can give their Kid Code to their friends, or you can give it directly to their parents. They need to add your child’s Kid Code in their Azoomee Settings. Finally, for an extra layer of security, you’ll need to verify the friendship – you’ll receive a notification to do this in Settings.

We’ll be trialling Azoomee over the next few weeks and are really hopeful that it is something which could work for our family and give us the peace of mind we need to be able to allow Sausage to use her devices without the need for us to be constantly looking over their shoulder. I strongly feel that schools should be offering kids an Azoomee membership and teaching them safe communication as part of the national curriculum as we’re only going to be MORE reliant on technology as the years go by.

Keep your eyes peeled here for an update so you can see how we get along with Azoomee’s new chat functions or head over to their site to get your free trial of the services.

 

No Time to Read?

Time to ReadAs soon as I was old enough to read, I became something of a bookworm. The Hobbit was the first “proper” book I read when I was about 6 and it was an ongoing love affair from then. When I was in my early teens, I’d wake up on Saturday morning, go into town to buy a new book and then spend the rest of the weekend reading it, usually finished by Sunday afternoon. My mother was so concerned by my lack of interest in being a street-raker that she actually consulted a doctor about my behaviour (although I think most  parents would be delighted by a child who chose to stay at home and read, but hey, sometimes you just can’t win).

The last time I read a book was a couple of years ago now. Carrie, by Stephen King if I remember rightly (which I highly recommend, if you haven’t already read it. In fact, read ANYTHING by Stephen King.). But since then, I’ve not picked up a book. I have plenty of access to books and I also have a Kindle, so that’s not the problem.

I keep claiming that I “don’t have time to read”, but that’s not really true, either. I have plenty of time for Facebook and Netflix and Candy Crush and all of the other things which hog my attention. I might CLAIM to be time poor but that only seems to apply when it suits me. I think the problem is inside my brain…what I once loved about reading is the thing which is making it hard for me now. Bear with me while I elaborate.

One of the appeals of reading a book was that feeling of slipping inside the story, losing myself in the words and in my own imagination and being taken away from reality into a finely-woven tale which could completely consume me. These days, I seem to have an absolute inability to disconnect myself enough to lose myself in anything. Even when we’re watching a film or TV show, I’m picking up my phone to browse Facebook or Reddit or occasionally Twitter (I say ‘occasionally’ because, is it just me, or is that place just tumbleweed central these days? No-one seems to chat on there like they used to).

People have noticed how attached to social media I am and it’s become a bit of a running joke, but it’s also starting to worry me. It seems like my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has become all-encompassing. It’s definitely a lifestyle thing; when I was young and single, I literally NEVER turned down a night out or a chance to socialise. I could be settling down in my pyjamas, get a phone call and be in the pub in half an hour flat because I couldn’t bear the thought that people were having fun without me, and I think Facebook has become a substitute for that – I can still be sitting in my pyjamas, not NEEDING to go out and still be connected to everything that’s going on in my friends lives.

I’ve seen other people take a social media detox and I genuinely wonder how they do it. Going on Facebook, either by app or desktop, has become almost like a reflex, something I do as a matter course and I really feel like I need to take a break. The main fear is that, because so much of my work is social-based or reliant on a social media scoring, stepping away means losing money but I think I need to give it a go and see before I let it consume me. From next week, I’ll be removing the app from my phone and only accessing Facebook via my laptop, and I’ll only be using my laptop during “work” hours.

I need to re-learn how to read. How to watch a TV show without picking up my phone every two seconds. How to interact with my kids and Husband without there being a screen between me and them.

And the stupid thing is, the thought of it fucking terrifies me.

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.