Christmas is just days away and no doubt many children will receive tablets, mobile phones, computers and other devices that provide internet access. The challenge for us mums and dads is keeping our children safe while they use the Internet. A new campaign, timed to coincide with gift-giving season, highlights the uncomfortable truth that many of us parents are struggling and don’t know what to advise our kids.
The campaign has been launched by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC). When the NCA made me aware of the campaign, it instantly rang true with me.
I am genuinely horrified when I see what some of my daughters’ school friends are allowed to do online. In one or two instances (I can’t go into details) this has led to problems for the families involved.
I know children as young as eight whose parents grant them unfettered access to the online world where they chat with goodness knows who. It often seems to stem from parents having little or no understanding of the technology. It’s this issue the NCA and NPCC is seeking to address with the #WhoIsSam campaign.
The campaign has a particular focus on streaming media. Criminals are increasingly using streaming media to connect with youngsters so they can be exploited and abused.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “We need parents and carers to talk to their children about healthy relationships and staying safe online.”
The NCA has noticed a trend among offenders. Capitalising on the immediacy of streaming media, plus the ability to post lots of comments in real time, they are using tricks or dares and offering online gifts to manipulate children and get them to perform inappropriate acts in front of a web cam. This frequently involves nudity and always involves malicious, manipulative behavior, often while pretending to be the child’s friend.
The NCA has produced a short video to highlight the risks. I’ve embedded it below so you can take a look.
A survey carried out by the NCA has found many parents have an awareness of online security. Technology, however, moves so fast their knowledge is frequently out of date.
As part of the #WhoIsSam campaign the NCA surveyed 927 parents. Of those questioned, 84% felt they did have enough knowledge to keep their children safe online. The remaining responses, however, seem to tell a different story:
- 15% hadn’t spoken to their children about online security for at least six months
- 15% had never had a conversation with their children about staying safe online
- 58% had no idea if they had internet security in place.
If you are concerned about online security or simply want to make sure your knowledge is up to date, help is available from the NCA’s ThinkUKnow website. There is dedicated advice for parents and carers about the risks posed by streaming services and how to ensure your children stay safe using them.
There are also age-appropriate educational materials for children in various age groups, from five year olds to teenagers. All are designed to help youngsters understand how to stay safe using the internet.
I’ve taken a look at the Thinkuknow site and it is very impressive. It shows children how they can report abuse, how to spot fake material online and what to do if a friend seems to be sharing too much online.
For us mums, dads and carers there’s a guide to the various social media platforms, information about live streaming services, what to do if you think your child has seen or done something online they shouldn’t have and tips about how to talk to your child about online safety.
Commenting on the #WhoIsSam campaign, Zoe Hilton, NCA head of safeguarding said: “It’s great to see that so many parents are aware of the potential dangers children face online, but with this campaign we’re asking them to make sure they familiarise themselves with their children’s online behaviour and keep that knowledge up to date.”
While I don’t presently let my kids using streaming services, I am well aware that time will come. When it does, I will do my utmost to ensure my knowledge of the various streaming media and social media platforms is up to date. As Hilton said, it’s about keeping your knowledge up to date.
Do you feel your knowledge of streaming media is good enough to understand the risks your children could be exposing themselves to? Do you have hints and tips for keeping your children online? Please do leave a comment below with your thoughts and experiences as I’m sure mums, dads and carers would benefit from knowing about them.