- Talk to your child about adding random people to their social media, for most kids it is all about the quantity of people they have on there and it seems to be a race to get the most 'friends'. But do they really know who they are adding? Over the years I had to tell my daughter that she needed to stop adding random people that she had never met. Of course she never listened to me and we all know how that ended! They need to understand it is more about the quality of the friends and not the quantity.
- Don't be tempted to let them use social media until they are of the recommended age. The minimum recommended age for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat is all 13 years old. I see so many younger kids using these social medias without adult supervision. I do let Tilly use my Snapchat, but she is always next to me and she has no idea how to send the pictures to my friends because she passes the phone to me. Kids always trust everyone when they are younger and to a pre - teen, we are taught that we can trust adults. But in reality adults hide their devious side online and it would be interesting to see how many people are the actual real age that they pretend to be.
- When you share pictures of your children online, be careful of what you are sharing. Think about the surroundings, are there street names? constant landmarks in your pictures, Is your child wearing a school uniform with a school logo, Do you talk about your kids school online? Every time you do some of this, you are putting your child at risk!
- Try to keep up with the social media that your child is using, I know it is a fast changing world and there always seems to be a different social media going on. I have only just embraced Whatsapp and that has been going for years and years. Keep up with their accounts and make sure you know their password. I knew all my kids passwords until they were 16 and if I suspected anything was wrong, I could go into their account. Obviously, this didn't help us because my daughter was groomed at 16 when I had decided she was old enough to have full control of her social media accounts.
- Whatsapp, so many kids have it and use it for chatting with their friends, but it also gives people the chance to add people that they don't know. This involves handing over your phone number and then when you have done something so innocently as to add someone to whatsapp, they could then call you when you don't want them to. This even happened to me recently and I am 43, I added someone on whatsapp, whilst on holiday. He seemed a respectable bloke at the time but he kept trying to Facetime me. When I didn't answer, he then sent abusive messages on whatsapp. So even a grown up can be caught out online.
- Teach them to keep their personal details safe. They should never tell people where they live or where they work, or go to school. When my older kids were little, I never let them have anything that was personalised, because I didn't want it advertised in the street what their name was. So my kids never had names on bags, clothes or hair bands. The dangers are still the same these days but it is done a different way with the internet. It is so easy for a kid to tell someone online, what their name is and where they live. It is a scary world we live in!
- Have parental controls. Tilly goes online, but she uses a kids Kindle, there is a safe walled garden that means she has her independence and can choose which apps she wants to use. But it is totally safe and she can only access Prime for kids and she can only download Amazon kids apps on her kindle. There is no internet browser for her to use and certainly no social media. She is perfectly safe in her walled garden and to come out of it, she needs my password. You can also get parental controls for laptops and other devices too. This will protect your child against pornography sites and other sites such as Gambling etc.
- Sending inappropriate images through social media or phone apps like Whatsapp. Sometimes even as an adult you can feel pressured to send that boob picture or a really sexy one. But once these pictures are sent, you can never get it back, Years ago, with Tilly's dad I sent him an image, I thought nothing else of it until we broke up and he sent it back to me, telling me it was his picture and he would do what he wanted with it. When you are an adult you often feel pressured to do stuff, to keep your friends or boyfriend happy, so imagine how it feels to be a child and be pressured in to it. They think all of their friends are doing it, so they think it is okay BUT IT ISN'T! Your body is your own and you should never have to share it with anyone else if you don't want to.
- Get internet savvy! learn how to spot signs that something is wrong with your child. Learn what the signs are. Sadly i was a bit ignorant to the dangers I suppose, I never thought that my kids could be in danger. I thought keeping their password and having free reign of their accounts meant I was protecting them, but there is so much more to it. Learn how to spot a groomed child, know the signs and learn how to deal with the fall out. Know how to contact https://ceop.police.uk/ if you suspect your child is in trouble online, know where to go and what to do. There are so many people who can help you and give you advice.
If your child is acting strange all of a sudden, this is a sign that something has gone wrong online, It could be online grooming, or it could be online bullying. if you suspect something is going on, try to keep calm and talk to your child rationally. I know that we want to go charging in to 'save' our child, but that isn't the best way to do it because the child will clam up and you won't get anything out of them. There were so many times that I wanted to go barging in with my daughter and snatch her away from the paedophile, but I couldn't she was too far groomed and I had the rest of my family to think about. What use would I have been to them if I was in prison? As long as you teach your child the dangers of online crime from an early age, then they are aware. Sadly my six year old has known the dangers on the internet for about a year now, as much as we tried to protect her from it - she picked things up. So she was made aware of the story of the chicken that used a computer. It is all about internet grooming but is told in an easy to understand way and it isn't scary. It also helped her to understand what had happened to her sister.