Are my kids safe online?

Truthfully? It depends. If you set your child up with a kid friendly website such as CBeebies on a tablet at the kitchen table while you cook tea, then they’re pretty safe. If you’re letting them have the Wi-Fi password for their smartphone while they’re in their bedroom upstairs and you’re downstairs watching the soaps, then the answer is ‘not really’.

Why? What does that mean?

Well, if you don’t supervise your child, how do you know what they are accessing online? They could be viewing unsuitable websites, sites with adult content, explicit language, adult videos… the list goes on. Plus, if they have social media accounts then they could be talking to strangers online and if you’re not checking what information they’re sharing, then they could slip up or be pressured into sharing private details like their address or which school they attend. It’s pretty obvious why that is so dangerous.

My kid is sensible. They wouldn’t go on any dodgy websites.

That may be the case, but what if they receive a message online which looks innocent but actually contains unsavoury or frightening material such as sexually explicit photos or nasty threatening language? Once your child has been exposed to that, the damage is done. You then have to deal with the fallout of that and probably have conversations you didn’t want to really have so soon with your child. Your child may be sensible online but there will always be someone somewhere who wants to use the internet for negative purposes. It’s people like that who you need to be protecting your kids from.

So what can I do?

You can put parental controls in place via your internet provider and also via the settings on whatever device your child uses, however this has its drawbacks. There is potential that the device will then block search terms that the child may need to look up for school or for their own curiosity, such as questions about their bodies for example. There is also the issue of the child getting round those controls – a lot kids are so technologically advanced they can figure these things out. The best way is to supervise them constantly. You don’t necessarily have to sit them on your lap the whole time, but keep checking over their shoulder what they looking at and make sure they’re safe. Makes sure you know their passwords too, so you can go through their messages and photos to ensure they’re using the device appropriately.