Internet, Smartphone and XBOX safety – 6 things all parents should know

Your child can access the internet in all sorts of ways, from laptops and phones to games consoles. Here’s what you need to know about keeping them safe

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As a mum your main priority is the safety of your children at all times. Once upon a time you could only access the internet through your computer. Now you can through a Smartphone, XBOX, Playstation or a Wii. Technology is updating and evolving everyday and it can sometimes be hard to keep on top of every console, device and website your child is using.

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Lucinda Fell and Hannah Broadbent from Childnet, a registered charity with a mission to make the Internet a great and safe place for children, share their six top tips on how to ensure you and your children are all clued up.  

“At Childnet, in partnership with the UK Safer Internet Centre, we try to put forward a very positive message to say the internet is good – the last thing we would want any parent to do is to pull the plug and say ‘Okay, you can’t go online,’” says Lucinda Fell. 

Here are six top tips:

1 – Be aware of all the ways your child can access the internet

While computers and laptops quite obviously lend themselves to the internet, don’t forget that these devices do too:

  • XBOX
  • Wii
  • PlayStation
  • Smartphones such as a Blackberry or iPhone
  • iPod Touch
  • Tablets such as an iPad or a Kindle
  • Gaming handhelds such as Nintendo DSi, 3DS and Sony PSP

“One of the key things you need to realise is that internet safety messages apply on internet-enabled technologies in the same way as the internet,” says Lucinda.

2 – Make sure your kid knows the dangers

The top dangers your children must be aware about when using the internet are:

  • Don’t meet up with anyone you speak to online
  • Be careful about what files you accept
  • Tell someone if something upsets or worries you
  • Remember that not everyone you meet online is reliable, and nor is the information they give you

“Some games allow you to connect and play with other gamers, but you must remind your child that they are still a stranger. It doesn’t matter how often you play with them, you shouldn’t be sharing any personal information,” advises Hannah Broadbent. 

3 – Be there for your child if something goes wrong online  

Make sure your child knows that you are the person she should talk to if anything online upsets or worries her and that you will sort out any problems as best as you can.

“We’ve found that during work in the past on cyber-bullying, some children didn’t want to speak out about being bullied in fear that they would have their computer taken away from them. Children may need to be encouraged that this is not the case,” says Lucinda.

4 – Decide how parental controls can work for you

Computers to phones, iPads to gaming consoles, they all have some type of parental control so that you can monitor your child’s usage.

The XBOX 360, for example, allows you to set a specific time allowance for your child and then after the agreed time, it switches off. Simple! Other consoles, such as PlayStation 3 and the Wii, allow you to set security passwords for games that have a higher age rating than your child.

How much you use the parental controls that are available on all games consoles will depend on your child’s age and needs. Every mum knows that when you try and take your kid away from a game, it can be extremely tricky! But with some games, you can’t progress to the next level unless you’ve spent a bit of time playing it. 

“Playing the game meaningfully may take one hour so for a parent to say ‘You’ve got half an hour every day’ isn’t going to be helpful for their child because what they’re using requires more time. We suggest they say ‘you can play for an hour every other night’ or something like that instead,” says Lucinda.

Also when your child starts school, they may be given homework that requires the use of the internet at home. Therefore you may adjust the parental controls so that he or she has a bit of time to play games as well as time to do the set homework.

“We encourage parents to talk about what their children are doing, are they doing it safely, what are their needs and then creating the rules or agreement that’s suitable for their family,” says Hannah.

5 – Not sure how an XBOX works? Ask!

It’s a good idea to know exactly what your child’s gaming console or Smartphone does so you can keep an eye on what she is up to. The best time to do this is before buying and any store that sells these products will be able to provide you with all the information you need (and maybe even let you have a go!)

The UK Safer Internet Centre recently created a Parent’s Guide to Technology, which includes a Shopper’s Checklist that you can print and take with you when you go shopping for a gaming device for your child as well.

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6 – Report any problems directly

It’s best to report any problems to the technology creator or service provider directly, so that they can deal with the matter quickly and efficiently. You will find these contact details by going to the website of the specific product or company.

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