Today is Safer Internet Day. To mark the occasion a survey has been conducted into children’s use of the Internet. 1200 children were surveyed. Some of the results are fairly eye opening. A report on the results is available here on the BBC news website.
96% of 13 to 18 year olds surveyed used social media, which is quite understandable. However more surprising is that 78% of the under 13 year olds surveyed used one or more social network. 49% of 10 to 12 year olds said that they had a Facebook account. The minimum age to sign up for a Facebook account is 13 years old.
Can we switch it off!
My first instinct is just horror that my kids will be growing up and live their teenage years in a social media, Internet age. I am so happy that I was a teenager in an era before camera phones were invented. There a plenty of drunken student antics that I’m happy live in my mind not on Facebook. A bit of me wishes that I could turn the clock back to the eighties and switch off the internet for the next 15 years so I don’t have to deal with this!
But when I think about it haven’t kids always pushed boundaries and wanted to do things that they are not old enough to be allowed to do yet. Are under 13 year olds using social media before they are allowed to a bit like this? I know that I went to nightclubs before I was 18 and had a few drinks in the pub when I was underage (the advantages of having an older sister!) I guess our kids see us using social media and want to copy us. I’m conscious I use social media I front of my kids more than I’d like to admit.
My kids are quite tech savvy. My boys (twins aged 3) and my daughter (age 7) will watch cartoons on YouTube and play games on the CBeebies website. We are still in the early days of finding our way with safe use of the Internet. Sofia is a bit too young to want to use social media but I wonder how long it will be before Sofia is wanting to sign up to Facebook.
Kids on the Internet
We have certain sites that Sofia is allowed to use (Moshi Monsters, Animal Jam, the kids YouTube app and the CBeebies website). So far she has been good at sticking to these and will ask me if she wants to try a new website. I think this will be an area where we will have some negotiation in the future as she wants to explore further.
We keep the iPad in the family areas of our house (the living room or the kitchen) so we can see what Sofia is doing online. I will sit with her for a little while and have a go at whatever she is playing. It means I can be comfortable with the website she uses plus I get to play (colouring in dinosaurs and jumping on clouds to catch butterflies – what’s not to love!)
Sofia recently woke up early on a Saturday morning and sneaked the iPad into her bedroom, which is not allowed. We has to reiterate that this is not okay and to stop her doing it again we have also changed the password. As the kids get older I would like, if possible, to keep a no TV, tablet or laptop in the bedroom rule although we will have to think about how this would work if the kids are doing homework tasks online.
I think we will need to get to grips with security controls and privacy settings and understand what settings we need to set up to keep our kids safe. At the moment it is something that I don’t really know a lot about but that I think are really important.
There is an Internet site for Safer Internet Day that has lots of practical help and resources for children and parents
Sofia has already told me she wishes she was an adult so that she could have her own mobile phone and laptop. She was horrified when I told her I was in my twenties when I had my first mobile. I really don’t know when is the right age for a kid to have their own phone. I think if a phone was just for calls and texts I would be more relaxed about Sofia having a phone at a younger age. It would be good to have away of getting in touch once she is traveling to secondary school on her own.
Smart phones are a bit trickier. I know my smart phone is a bit addictive. A smart phone will give Sofia much more access to the online world and social media. She could be online a lot more without us having as much influence over what she is doing. I think this is one area that will definitely be up for debate in the next few years. I know that she will be desperate to have the same tech as her friends. Would it make me a horrible mum to make her have an old school Nokia?!
Have you got this figured out?
Have you got older children and have already dealt with these issues? What are the best ways to keep your kids safe online? When did your child get their first phone or start using social media?
Where is my old Nokia? Anyone know where the off switch is for the Internet?!