With technology being such a big part of our lives, it’s important to make sure you know how to keep your kids safe online. The first step to this is to educate yourself.
The recent momo challenge has sparked a widespread panic among parents. This post is NOT about that, I don’t want to go into whether or not this is in fact a hoax. It did highlight a few problems, which I think is important to talk about. A specific group of my mummy friends said they told their kids that someone broke YouTube and now they are all watching the same childrens channel app. This is where the problem comes in. Now I understand the fear, 100% completely. You hear that this crazy thing is encouraging young children to kill themselves or showing them horrifying images. Knee jerk reaction, ban anything you think is relevant.
You can’t protect your kids from everything. If I could put him back in my belly, I would, but the truth is I need to prepare him for the world. The internet is a bad, bad place. It’s like a big black hole of some really mortifying stuff. And on the flip side it’s a wonderful place filled with great teaching games, unlimited information at your fingertips, 2 hour delivery from Amazon (for when you’re home alone with a screaming baby and need more nappies or formula or chocolate) and the ability to share your photos and videos with your family and friends around the world. The other day I got a cheque in the mail… unusual isn’t it! Who uses cheques anymore? I didn’t even have to go to the bank, I could bank it straight via my banking app!
The same can be said about the word. It’s an awful, scary and dangerous place. It is also filled with parks and zoos and baby kittens and if you want to be able to enjoy seeing the delight on your child’s face the first time they pet a baby horse or while running away from you chasing them with a water gun in the park.
The internet is no place for a child, it really isn’t. It’s your job to protect them. As with crossing the road or walking to school alone, how you protect them depends on their age.
This post is targeted to kids around 5… I’d say, depending on the child specifically, the eldest a child can be left on their own is probably around 8 (not completely alone, but an 8 year old can probably cross the street on their own).
So you have this tiny person, who can’t cross the street or go to school on their own and if they’re not at a reading age
Although even that, sometimes isn’t enough because you’d like to ensure that no bad images appear before they catch even a glimpse of it. So here are a few steps:
- Stick to major apps like YouTube (as opposed to YouTube kids), as the more popular and widely used the platform is, the more it is moderated.
- Watch the big hitters like Ryan’s Toy Review, CKN Toys, Skyheart, Kid City… please note I am NOT affiliated with any of these channels or people. My little one just loves them. I would also add my own YouTube channel to this list of course, as we have a small and new channel we are trying to grow! A few new subscribers would greatly help us out!
- Create playlists yourself. This way you can watch the videos first and put them together, so your little one can just keep watching the next videos on the playlist.
- Play on big devices like a TV. So during TV time, I put YouTube on the TV and I’ll put my tablet on one side of me, while I cuddle the munchkin on my other side. This way I can still enjoy my show on the side but have my eye on the TV for any unusual activity.
- Do NOT mute their device. You need to hear as well as see what they’re watching and listening to.
Communication is key to any relationship, between anyone and a key point in keeping your kids safe. Even at 2 or 3, you can still communicate with them their need to always tell you if something happens which makes them sad or scared. The sooner you start telling them these things, the better it is. You want to make sure they know you’ll always be there for them and it’s important that you are an approachable and understanding parent in everyday life, so that they are never afraid of coming to you with any problem. This is good for all sorts of things which will crop up over the course of their lives.
Ask them every day what their day was like, did anything happen to make them sad. Talk to them, lots and lots of dialogue.
All Online Devices are Potentially Dangerous:
So this whole momo thing sparked a bunch of ill informed mothers to move away from a great online resource like YouTube (which is silly, because it was supposedly targeting YouTube Kids, not YouTube) and they all flocked to a different app. They don’t understand that any device that is connected to the internet, is a danger because it can be hacked.
All devices can be hacked. The internet is hard to get away from if you want to teach your kids about technology. Remember to always be vigilant, if a hacker gets into your device which I am here to tell you is not a very difficult thing (even more so if you are not familiar with how to keep your devices clean and secure), they can pretty much do what ever they like.
Instead of putting your kids in front of a tablet on their own, sit next to them and engage with them. Talk about the stuff they’re watching or playing. If you need 10 minutes to make supper, put them close by. I sometimes put him on the counter close by or on a stool at the breakfast bar. Keep them close by, turn up the sound and face the screen in your point of view.
A Closing Thought:
Don’t ban all technology, your kids need to learn how to navigate the online world and how to use technology so they aren’t at a disadvantage later in life. The younger they are, the easier they absorb things. Give them a boost in life and help them learn as much as they can.
Keep them safe, be vigilant and educate yourself if you’re a little bit of a technophobe.
Have a look at our Hulk cake smash session!
Dealing With Mummy Guilt is a great post about how you should not feel guilty, you’re doing your best.