16/07/19

Esafety Article | Newsletter

Please find below two articles for parents to help you engage with your child’s online activities over the summer holidays, from ThinkUKnow.

Sharing pictures of your children online

Most parents love sharing photos of their children with friends and family. But remember – pictures you share online could be out there for ever. Learn how to protect your child whilst staying social.

Are you a ‘sharent’?

For many children online life begins before birth, when their excited parents-to-be post ultrasound images on social media.  A recent report stated that 42% of parents share photos of their children online, with half of these parents posting photos at least once a month (Ofcom, 2017). For parent bloggers the frequency of posting photos is likely to be more.

The internet can provide fantastic tools for sharing special moments from your child’s early years with family and friends. And online parenting forums, networks and blogs often provide valuable support and reassurance through parenting’s ups and downs.

But before you share, you should give thought to exactly who can see photos and comments featuring your child, and how this online footprint might affect your child in years to come.

What should you consider?

  • Who’s looking?When did you last check your privacy settings? On most social networks the default is that any other service user can access your pictures, which may also appear in internet search results. Remember that anyone who can see a photo can also download or screenshot it, and could go on to share it.
  • What else are you sharing? You might be sharing more than what’s in the post. As default, many cameras, phones and apps tag posts and photos with ‘meta-data’ which can include location details and other identifying information. This is potentially risky for any child, but poses particular risks for vulnerable children such as those who have been fostered or adopted and could be sought online by members of their birth family.
  • Ownership Under the terms and conditions of most social networks, when you share a photo you licence the network to use and reproduce your image, and grant it the right to licence it for use by third parties. It could be used for commercial purposes, a point deliberately highlighted by the Danish company Koppie Koppie, which sold mugs featuring freely downloaded pictures of young children. Another online activity which has distressed parents and carers is the ‘Baby Role Play’ game played by some Instagram users, who repost photographs of other people’s children and create fictional identities based on them.
  • Their digital tattoo Every publically accessible image or comment featuring your child contributes to a public image which will follow them into the future. That apocalyptic nappy incident might make for a hilarious tweet now, but if it comes to light when they’re older, how could it affect the way they feel about themselves, or you, or how others see them? Could their online childhood become an issue if they are seeking a job, or a relationship, or even election to public office?

Your child’s right to privacy Psychologist Aric Sigman has expressed concerns about the impact on children of the eroding boundaries between private and public online: “Part of the way a child forms their identity involves having private information about themselves that remains private.”

Parent bloggers

If you’ve set up a blog to share your parenting experiences with a wider audience, you’ve probably already given plenty of thought to issues like your child’s privacy, managing their digital footprint, ownership and copyright, and commercialism.

Strategies adopted by some successful bloggers include: anonymising their own and their child’s identities; involving their child in the material you create and only posting material they are happy with; and carefully monitoring their child’s online presence, for example by checking their name in search aggregator services or setting up a Google Alert for their name.

What do parental controls do?

These controls are designed to help parents and carers manage their child’s online activities.  There are various types, some of which are free but others which can be bought.  However, nothing is totally fool proof so they don’t replace the need for adults to support and advise children using the internet.

What can controls be used for?

Controls can either be for a device like a games console, or for a network such as your home broadband.

The way to access device controls can vary according to the manufacturer.   They can offer varying types of protection, from filtering out adult content from search results to preventing your child from buying things when playing games. You can generally find instructions on how to set these controls up on the manufacturer’s website or use the Internet Matters app for help.  These settings will apply whether the device is being used in your home our outside – but it’s easy for them to be switched off, so talk to your child about trust and responsibility, making sure they understand the importance of why you have put the settings in place.

Most games consoles come with settings, which can be put in place for either the device itself or the games platform.  It’s easy to forget that games consoles allow players to connect to the internet and talk to people all over the world so setting controls on devices and the platform itself (such as X Box) is important.

Broadband and network filters generally come free with your service.  These can be used to prevent material coming into your home.  For example, you could restrict anything with a horror or sexual content being accessible via your home broadband.   Instructions for accessing these filters can be found on the service providers’ websites – look at the bottom of the page to find the “help” or “security” page.

Online controls

Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing allow users to filter out certain types of search results.  This means you can reduce the risk of your child seeing adult content like pornography,   or set limits on the time they spend online. Look for the cogwheel “settings” symbol where you will find the options for each provider.  You can also encourage your child to use safer search facilities, such as SafeSearch Kids from Google.

Social media and other websites

As with search engines, social media and sites like YouTube have privacy and security settings.  These can prevent your child from being contacted by strangers or from seeing inappropriate material.  It is important to remember that content filters cannot prevent other people from sending offensive or inappropriate messages or comments to your child’s account, so controlling who can contact your child is a key step.

Buying controls

It is also possible to buy filter programmes.  These can be either solely for filtering purposes, but some virus protection software also offer filtering options.

What next?

Controls are not a single solution to staying safe online; talking to your children and encouraging responsible behaviour is critical. However, controls are a vital first step to helping to protect your child online, and here seven simple things you can do to use them effectively:

  1. Set up home broadband parental controls and make use of controls on your home broadband.
  2. Set controls on your search engine; encourage your child to always use child-friendly search engines, and activate and lock the safe search settings on the browsers and platforms they use.
  3. Make sure every device is protected. Controls should be installed on every device your child uses, such as their mobile phone, tablet and games consoles (both home and handheld).
  4. Use privacy settings.  Activate the safety measures offered by different sites; social networking sites like Facebook have privacy settings that will help prevent your child seeing unsuitable advertising or sharing too much with other people.
  5. Block pop-ups. If you’re worried about your children accessing inappropriate content though accidentally clicking on adverts in pop-ups, follow the advice from BBC Webwise on how to stop these.
  6. Find good sites and agree on them as a family. By talking to your child about their interests you can help them find suitable sites to visit and apps to use. Review these sites as they get older.
  7. Manage their use and access. Children may be very worried that your response to a problem will be to take away their internet access.  Whilst this may be an appropriate response in some cases, the threat may be a barrier for a child who needs help.  Be aware of this when talking to them about their internet use, and reassure them that they can talk to you or a trusted adult whenever they need to.

Finally, remember, the police advise parents to not allow e-devices to be used in bedrooms. You need to know that what they are sharing/sending is appropriate and safe.

During the summer, if you have concerns over online material either seek advice from Click CEOP or contact the police.