The internet has opened up a world of possibilities for our children. They can video chat with friends or family thousands of miles away, use apps like TikTok to make music videos, or learn about their favourite sport or hobby through a click of a button.
But the online world has developed at such rapid speed that society, Government and legislation are struggling to keep up. One result is that social networks expose children to dangerous and inappropriate content, while others may host sexual predators. It is vital we talk to our children about their online lives, turning it into an everyday conversation. This can involve discussing what personal information to share, or pointing out new online friends might not always be who they say. It is also important you keep up to date with the social media sites and games your children use.
The NSPCC has created some quick and memorable advice for parents:
T – Talk about staying safe online
E – Explore their online world together
A – Agree rules about what is and isn’t OK
M – Manage your family settings and controls
And repeat, making it part of your everyday life.
Parents can also ring the O2/NSPCC advice line, to speak directly with an online safety expert, on 0808 800 5002 or book a free appointment with O2’s Gurus in O2 retail stores, where they can help set up parental controls on your child’s devices.
TikTok, one of the world’s most downloaded apps, is exposing children as young as five to leering sex pests, cruel taunts and the glorifying of anorexia and self-harm. TikTok says users must be at least 13 years old but asks for no proof, however, TikTok is age-rated on app stores so parents can stop it being added.
It has recently added the ability to live-stream, making it even more of a threat. That exposes youngsters to suggestions from strangers in real-time, with just seconds to decide on a response that risks leading to a spiral of abuse and exploitation.
The Chinese-owned app, worth up to £55billion, claims it is “raw, real, and without boundaries”. But its dark side is concerning teachers nationwide. One primary school in Cornwall said: “Parents of children in Year 3 to Year 6 have been horrified by what children are exposed to.”
As well as live-streaming and public comments, TikTok lets users send direct messages. One North Yorkshire school advised: “If the profile is open, strangers can comment on your child’s videos. “While this isn’t always sinister, it lets potential predators contact your child.”
In Stockport, Gtr Manchester, parents were alerted to the #takeitoff challenge, in which young girls are urged to video themselves removing their school shirts. The school told parents: “There has been some suspicion the app is being used to stalk and court teenage girls.”
Chris Keates, of teaching union the NASUWT, said: “Today it’s TikTok, tomorrow it will be another site. Young people will be at risk until those who develop the sites, and governments who regulate them, make safety and welfare their overriding priority.”
TikTok – which used to run in the UK as musical.ly – is one of the top 10 apps globally, vying with Netflix and Snapchat. The NSPCC found one in 20 children on live-streaming sites have been asked to strip by a stranger. They said: “We know a significant number of children are contacted via live-streaming apps like TikTok, abusers use them as a hunting ground. It’s alarming how little progress social networks have made over grooming.”
Charity Barnardo’s said its child sexual exploitation team had helped victims as young as eight – younger than any it had seen before. The Department of Media, Culture and Sport said: “We expect tech companies to remove child sexual abuse content, stop online grooming, and have robust age verification.”
Net aware: Parents review kids’ social networks, apps & games
Netware is a parents’ guide to the social networks children and young people use. Stay up to date and keep your child safe in today’s digital world.
Staying safe on Minecraft | Parent Information
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