Anne Houston: Responsible parents need to be tech-savvy
TODAY is Safer Internet Day, the annual awareness drive promoting safe and responsible use of online and mobile technology among children and young people.
Children 1st supports the day as part of wider work to keep children safe from harm – including potential online dangers like inappropriate content, “internet grooming” and cyber bullying.
These days, youngsters are increasingly technologically savvy, their knowledge of devices such as computers or smart phones often outstripping that of their parents or carers. While it’s encouraging that young people are embracing new technologies, it’s equally crucial that they – and their parents and carers – understand the risks and are protected and able to enjoy online activities safely. We must never forget that although it can feel like a virtual world, the internet can have real-life consequences.
A recent Children 1st survey found that half of parents haven’t set parental controls on their home computers and other devices – mainly because they didn’t feel they needed to. However, 48 per cent of those surveyed still felt their children weren’t safe using social networking sites. It’s therefore important that parents and carers learn about mobile and online technology so they’re fully aware of the potential hazards – and able to avoid them.
We’re urging people to Do One Thing Today and make sure they’ve set up parental controls on all internet capable devices. It’s also worth checking what child protection measures your internet service provides, or consider using filtering software or child-friendly search engines. Microsoft, for example, offers a version of Internet Explorer that allows parents to restrict access to certain sites. Concerned adults can also contact our helpline, ParentLine Scotland, for more support and advice.
The best way to protect children online is to understand what they’re doing and talk to them about using technology responsibly. Encourage them to speak up if they feel upset or threatened by anything they see or anyone they’re communicating with online. That way they can enjoy the benefits of technology, safe and free from harm.
• Anne Houston is chief executive of Children 1st.
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