Today is Safer Internet Day and last week I was lucky enough to be invited by Microsoft to attend a round table discussion about online safety for children.

Now, the internet’s brilliant, right? I can’t imagine life without it … not *cough* that I’m addicted or anything. However, having a young son who loves all things computer related (the boy makes Powerpoint presentations for fun!) I’m often a little nervous about the time he spends online. What sites does he visit? How long is too long? Has anyone ever tried to make contact with him online? Does he know what to do if someone does?

* 87% of children use the internet at home, but only one in eight parents mediate their children’s online activity.*

I was pretty embarrassed that I don’t even have a separate account for Skig on my laptop – not that there isn’t anything he can’t see on my laptop (honest!) – but I didn’t realise that there are ways that I can protect him online with just a few simple clicks of a button.

Microsoft, in partnership with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), have partnered to release a new customised Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser for parents and young people. You can download this browser at www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/ie9/ and it will deliver enhanced features which can help children stay safer online.

*Facebook requires its members to be at least 13 years-old to use the site. However, 44 per cent of British children aged between eight to 12 years-old are routinely flouting this age limit and logging onto the popular social networking site.*

I was very impressed by the level of support and peace of mind this product can give me as a parent. The customised browser provides young people with immediate access to CEOP, the government’s one-stop shop for internet safety, where they can report any concerns they may have and see the most up to date information about staying safer online for the whole family.  We discussed whether this whole ‘red button’ approach was going to be implemented by the major social network sites and I was assured that ‘negotiations were ongoing.’ I, for one, hope that the likes of Facebook keep talking to CEOP to ensure that there is enough support online if children feel unsafe.

We all took it in turns to explore how Internet Explorer 9 works and here are some of its main features:

  • The thinkuknow Jump List breaks down the relevant advice for children by age group so children can learn how to protect themselves online. This was great because it will really appeal to each age group, using appropriate language and visuals.
  • The CEOP Jump List provides parents with one-click access to valuable information such as how they can use existing computer software settings to control their children’s internet usage, as well as:
  • CEOP’s Safety Centre – to make a CEOP report, or find out information on bullying, viruses, hacking, online security, or inappropriate online content such as sexual images.

I have always taught Skig the basics of internet safety but it’s really important to keep educating our children – the risks change exponentially as our children get older and, like with any other tricky subject, the key is to try and keep those communication channels open.

So, here are some simple, but vital, tips on what to talk to your child about with regards to staying safe online:

  • Periodically ask kids to show you—the sites they visit, pages they create, games they play, what they talk about and with whom. If you plan to use family safety software for monitoring, let them know.
  • Negotiate clear guidelines for Internet use that fit your kid’s maturity and family’s values. Discuss the kinds of sites that are off limits, such as social sites not meant for those under age 13. Talk about what information should not be shared and boundaries for respectful communication with others.
  • Watch for signs of online bullying like being upset when online or a reluctance to go to school. Talk with kids about how to deal with it and how you can help. Also discuss how cyberbullying is never acceptable, and make the consequences clear.
  • Be the administrator of your home computer. Find out how: aka.ms/user-accounts.
  • Defend your computer against Internet threats. Keep all software (including your web browser) current with automatic updating. Install legitimate antivirus and antispyware software. Never turn off your firewall.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable day learning about how to keep Skig safer online – plus, the cakeage was AWESOME.

Thanks to Microsoft, CEOP and 3Monkeys for a great event.

If you’d like more information about The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre works in both the online and offline environments to protect children from sexual exploitation. Full information on all areas of work as well as online safety messages and access to online reporting can be found at www.ceop.police.uk.

 

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Published by Kate Sutton

Writer, Mother, Dater.

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