Sunday, 2 March 2014

My Greatest Internet Fear

Dear Friend,

As someone who knows me very well and also has children of your own, I wanted to share with you my fears about the Internet, and also ask your advice about upcoming decisions I need to make about their safety. As you know my children are only small (one and three) so up until this point I have not been worried about their access to the internet. After all their access is supervised, they can't read yet and they are primarily interested in the internet to watch their favourite cartoons and to play games. But, the other day whilst they were watching five player at the beginning of their programme was an advert that spoke to them saying "Click here, you know you want to find out more" to my horror I saw my three year old clicking as instructed. Thankfully I was there, and we have never seen the advert again, but it got me thinking; what if I hadn't of been there, or if someone was deliberately trying contact my children, or put content in front of them that they innocently clicked on? How easy would it be for them to be manipulated without even realizing what was happening? Or worse to be innocently looking for the answer to a question for school and find themselves looking at inappropriate content by accident? I already know that on average most boys see their first porn material online at nine years old which is pretty scary in itself and I don't want my boys to become one of those statistics.

So my dilemma is this? How do I teach internet safety and good decisions without just limiting what they access? I don't want to stop them going on the internet as I think that is far more dangerous later on in life for them when they find themselves looking at google wrongly forbidden. So how do I instill asking before clicking on the unknown, thinking about what they should and shouldn't be seeing in a public forum and being careful about what they search for? We have all had those days where we search for the answer to something on the internet accidentally spelling the word wrongly by switching two letters and ended up on a very inappropriate site? (Please say thats not just me.) So how do we help our children to use the internet as a tool and resource without pulling up data accidentally that they shouldn't, without them feeling that we are sitting on top of them to supervise and without hindering their independence and development of good decisions. How do we teach them to respect the internet?

I am dreading the day when my son turns into a teenager and asks if he can have a computer in his own bedroom because "all of his friends do". To add to my fears teenagers now (unlike in our day) expect to be a given a mobile phone which readily has internet available on it, ready to be looked at, beckoning to be searched with answers at the ready. We are at least 10 years away from that, and look at the advances in internet access in the last 10 years as well as the reduction in cost to such services and put that 10 years away from now and we are looking at accessibility for everyone in most places. With this readily accessible internet it makes me more adamant that I don't want to just limit access "just in case" but we need to be pro-active. I don't want to be facing this in the aftermath but preparing whilst I still have time in a positive and constructive manner, after all the internet is a great resource no matter what my fears are about it! So please, help me to turn my fears into a positive and respectful experience for my boys. One where they can use the internet and know and use their knowledge of it for good decisions themselves rather than being my restrictive ones. One where they can be good examples to their friends and not be afraid to ask for help if they are unsure. Finally I want them to enjoy using the internet and to be able to trust in their own instincts when using it.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions and tackling this together.


This post is my entry into the Check and Secure challenge. For more advice on family safety online, see Mums on Security

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