How to talk to young kids about the internet?

I think it’s time I started talking about internet safety

A few months ago I attended a round table event hosted by AVG, where we spoke about online safety and how confident parents felt about dealing with it.  As a Technology Consultant in Education I do feel that I have a slight advantage to some parents  when it comes to the technical aspects, but I also feel a bit clueless about when I should start addressing it and how I’m going to do it.  

How young is too young?

My daughter is nearly 6 and one of my priorities is to keep her as safe as possible online.  To date I’ve really only addressed the technical aspects of this, setting restrictions on our ipad, smartphones and we supervise her when she is on the PC but I haven’t delved into actually ‘talking’ to her about the potential dangers of the net as I still think she is a bit young.  But I may be wrong.

However, now that she has started reading and writing I think we’ll need to start talking about this ‘very’ soon.  I’ve spent a fair amount time looking around the net for guidance and have written about it in the past ‘How to Keep Younger Children Safe Online’.  However, the majority of stuff I find is more targeted at slightly older children with reference to chat rooms, grooming and cyber bullying.

Be afraid, be very afraid!

At the meeting, I met Will Gardner the CEO of Childnet International, who spends a large part of his time travelling the country researching and talking to teens/kids about online safety.  I was truly horrified by some of the stuff that he’s come across and it’s far too graphic to detail on a family blog. There I was thinking that sexting was simply naughty text messages.  Oh boy, was I wrong!

Resources for Keeping Younger Children Safer Online

Resources for Parents - How to Keep yYounger Children Safer OnlineFollowing the meeting, as Will was aware I was more interested in resources for younger children, he sent me a couple of really useful resources.  They have written a short guidance sheet for parents ‘Keeping Younger Kids Safe Online‘ which is worth a read and the second was a copy of a delightful book about friendship and internet responsibility called Digiduck’s Big Decision (£2.80), which is the perfect way of introducing younger children to the dangers of the internet without giving them nightmares.  You can also read Digiduck’s Big Decision online.

I think like all other good habits we instill in our kids like healthy eating, excercise, hygiene and education we need to teach our kids about online safety at an early age so that responsible internet use becomes natural.

Thanks to Will for firing through these resources.  Your timing was perfect.  If anyone else has any Online Safety Resources for Younger Children I should have a look at please do add them in the comments section.






Have you googled your kids recently?

How confident are you managing your kids internet use?

I was recently invited to a round table discussion at AVG Technologies in Covent Garden to chat about online safety for kids.  AVG in partnership with Plymouth University recently carried out a study, ‘Parents, Schools and the Digital Divide‘ to look at how well parents understood the risks involved in using the internet, how confident they felt in managing it and if there was anything AVG could do to support them.

I like to think I’m au fait with IT as an ICT Consultant in education myself and have put a few safety precautions in place at home, but there is so much more I should be doing, starting with setting controls on the Router.  However, I can imagine that there are a lot of parents out there who want to keep their kids safe but have no idea where to start.

Why would you?

92% of kids in the US have an online presence by the age of 2 according to Macaroni Kid

The discussion was very informative but the most important thing I took away, was from a brief discussion with Tony Anscombe Head of AVG Free products and a father himself after the round table discussion.  He asked ‘have you googled your child?’ 

Yes,  I’ve googled myself but I’d never thought of googling my daughter and I swear my heart stopped for a brief second.  As a parent blogger I’ve made a conscious decision about how much I’m willing to share about her in an attempt to keep her safer.  I know some bloggers write anonymously, others only show back shots of their kids and then there is the other extreme where I’ve felt physically sick with some of the stuff people share about their kids.  I’m forever, seeing children streaking on instagram.

You will find many posts about my daughter on this blog, I do include photos of her but carefully selected ones never any nudity, I don’t use her name, she’s always referred to as Madame online and if she’s in school uniform I blur the school logo.  I’ve also informed the school of my online presence so they can be extra vigilant.

It’s only a matter of time!

I don’t want to instill panic as I do believe common sense should prevail here and I want my daughter to grow up thinking the majority of people are good, but I took the plunge when I got home and googled my daughter’s name along with the name of our town.  I was absolutely gobsmacked that I didn’t find anything and I did have a good dig around.  Even though I’ve been careful I was pretty sure that something must have got out there hence why my heart almost stopped initially.

Monitoring Kid's Online

Once, I remember taking a photo of something in my house, I think it may have been a verruca on my foot, as you do, and I accidentally took a shot of a parcel in the background that had my home address on it and tweeted it.  Luckily, someone flagged it up and I deleted it straight away.

Lets put it to the test

I don’t know what possessed me but then I thought, I’d check a few of my friends kids and this is when I scared the crap out of myself.  In less than 3 minutes, I found the child’s home address and the name of the school they attended.  I simply put their name and town in google, it came back with 3 search results.

One was a profile of the child including a photo and all his dimensions (height, weight, etc) and one of the other results was a work profile for the mother that included both the children’s names and the school they attended plus their home phone number.  I then googled the home number and voilà it gave me the home address.  Don’t worry I’ve informed her that I’ve done this and she hasn’t crossed me off the Christmas list.

What can you do about it?

As a result of this I am now going to set up a Google Alert which includes my child’s name and where we live, so google will email me anytime she is mentioned online.  At the moment she’s only 5 and this is more for me to monitor myself, but I’d strongly encourage those of you with older kids to do the same.  This will also give you an opportunity to monitor any bullying that is going on.

So have you googled your kids lately?



The Hidden Killer: Flapjacks

School BansYou have got to be fricking kidding me!  A school in Essex has banned triangular shaped flapjacks due to sharp edges!  A child had to go home after being hit with one.  Apparently, the rectangular ones are still safe. WTF?  Surely four corners are far more dangerous than three?

I have to admit I’ve tried making them before and they were hard as rock and couldn’t get them out of the pan, but I hardly think they can be classed as dangerous?

What are they going to ban next? I can think about a dozen things that have sharper edges than a flapjack or that would hurt more if hit by one.  I imagine getting hit by an apple thrown by a member of the Cricket Team would hurt a lot!

OMG and cutlery!   Can you imagine the damage someone could do with a teaspoon?  *note the sarcasm*

I work in education and over the years have seen health and safety getting more and more bonkers.  Can’t these people who put these rules in place see how ridiculous they’re being?  I’ve seen everything from Conkers, Lip Balm, Plasters, Boys Ties and British Bull dog banned.

I would love to know what happened to the kid that threw it?

Have you seen any other ridiculous examples of Health and Safety gone mad?



Driving with undue care and attention…

As an IT consultant I’ve done a lot of driving over the last 12 years and I suffer from a bit of road rage from time to time.  Sadly, the majority of bad manoeuvres I see are from woman;  I can see them having full on conversations with their kids in the review mirror, turning around to pick up a screaming toddlers sippy cup, loading up a DVD but more often than not I see them texting!

I know this is factually inaccurate as it’s been proven that statistically women are better drivers, queue the theme tune to Sheilas’ Wheels.  However, my experiences are probably due to the fact that my job involves driving to and from schools and normally at the peak of the ‘school run’ when the 4×4 brigade are out in full force.

Anyhow, you can be ‘done’ for talking on your mobile, applying lipstick, eating an apple, lighting a fag and talking to and looking at passengers.  So, how the h*ll are these legal?

If your baby is in the backseat in a backward facing car seat they’re most likely asleep or looking at the world going by out the window.  What do you need to be continually checking for?  It’s not like they’re going anywhere.

If you’re worried about them choking, don’t give them anything to eat whilst in the car seat.  Are you’re worried about them being sick?   If they’re in an upright position won’t the law of gravity mean it’ll just go down their front?  Wouldn’t you hear them choking?  There isn’t a lot you can do whilst driving, looking in the mirror isn’t going to make a lot of difference only increasing your chances of having an accident.

Do you have one?  What do you think?  Do your kids distract you when you’re driving?  Have you ever text with your kids in the car?