As you know, I have a 12-year-old son. Twelve, going on 16. And if there’s one thing I hate more than hearing him shout, nay scream, at his xBox when he’s playing FIFA, it’s hearing gaming YouTubers blare out from his laptop.
It’s entirely my fault. I gave him my old Macbook when I upgraded, even though it was only meant to be a short-term solution – the plan was I was going to trade that in and buy him a cheap one. Didn’t happen. So now, at 12, he’s bowling about with a 15” Macbook. I got a record player for my 12th birthday.
Suffice to say, things really have moved on. Bigger picture? The world scares me right now. But in my little bubble of just me and my boys, I’m still scared, just by different things. (Since when did I become one of those mothers who was anxious all the time?!) My little world revolves around school, and all that that unfortunately, working hard to earn money, moronic ex partners, empty nest syndrome, dating tools on the internet … as well as nice things of course, like travelling, friends, family and cake.
You may remember that we’ve had our fair share of online bullying as a family, both myself and Dexter, and as a parent, I worry constantly about what he sees and does online. (As for me, I just leave those particular dating sites when I get harassed!) But it’s not so easy for Dexter. His life is online. I could whinge about how I wish things were different and in my day (blah blah) we’d spend the day riding our bikes and climbing trees, but the fact is, things are different and I have to accept that. Instead of meeting at the park, he meets his mates online. It’s just how it is. But it’s my job to make sure he has a healthy and balanced life outside of his online world … and to also ensure that he’s safe whilst he is online.
So where do we, as parents, start? Parental controls are a good place to start but what do you do if you don’t know how to install them? I’ll be honest, as tech savvy as I like to think I am, I don’t think I’d initially know what to do. I’m sure I could work it out eventually but the NSPCC and O2 have come up with a fantastic and easy solution – and you don’t even have to be an O2 customer to benefit.
O2 are running workshops with parents across the country, as well as offering a dedicated helpline service – 0808 800 5002 – for any internet safety questions (ie. setting parental controls.) Alternatively, you can visit experts in-store – just bring along your device(s) and they will help you to keep your child safe online.
‘O2 Guru’ appointments can be booked here: http://guru.force.com/O2DeskStoreLocator
So if you’re worried about what your children watch on YouTube, or innocent spelling mistakes that lead your children onto not-so-innocent results … or even something more personal like online bullying or (God forbid), sexting, you can always call the NSPCC & O2 online safety helpline (0808 800 5002). Personally, if the issue of online bullying arises again in our home, I’ll definitely give them a call – I suspect they’re more in touch with what’s really going on online than schools are.
These are worrying times aren’t they, but there are people out there who are willing to help, willing to help keep your children safe, you just need to know where to look. But as well as adding parental controls, don’t forget to keep the dialogue open with your children. Talk to them about the dangers online and if you need any advice about how to do that, check out THIS LINK on the NSPCC website for advice.
* As a UK charity almost 90% of the NSPCC’s funding is from generous people like us, who care about the safety of our children. If you’ve found this advice useful you can support the NSPCC with a donation: nspcc.org.uk/donate