How Can I Keep My Children Safe Online?
A recent survey of more than 2,000 parents, found that almost one in four have trouble controlling kids’ screen time. Now, the proposed Internet Access for Minors Bill 2017, suggests that it should be illegal for retail outlets to sell a mobile phone with internet access to minors under the age of 14, and for parents to allow young children to own a portable device which has the internet.
Fine Gael TD Jim Daly claims that by giving children Internet-ready phones: "Essentially you're giving your child ... a mobile device that allows them to access unlimited pornography." He's been working on the Bill for several months, in the hope it will support parents in restricting Internet access, lessen children’s reliance on technology, and encourage the industry to create ‘child friendly’ devices with limited Internet access.
There are numerous dangers of completely unsupervised Internet access for children; including the risk of cyber-bullying, interaction with strangers on social media, gambling, and unwittingly viewing inappropriate images. But is this law a good idea, or is it ‘Nanny State’ behaviour; allowing the Government too much control over what families choose to do?
How big is the problem?
In 2011, the ISPCC conducted a study of over 18,000 primary and secondary school age children in Ireland, with some worrying results:
- 24% of the secondary age group said that they didn't use privacy settings, and 36% of the primary age group didn't know how to keep social network accounts private.
- 17% of the secondary group and 13% of the primary group said they’ve given their full name to someone online whom they'd never met; with 10% of the older group admitting to also giving personal details such as email, mobile number or photo.
- Over 2,000 (16%) of the secondary group surveyed stated that they’d met up with someone they met online.
- 26% of the older group said they or someone they knew had been bullied online, but fewer than 10% of them had told anyone about it.
What does the Bill mean?
Under the proposed laws, retailers who sell a device to a minor will be subject to a fine of €100; and parents who allow a child born after 2015 to use a device unsupervised, could also face a penalty. It remains to be seen how this law would be enforced; but there's already argument from opposition, that there should be more focus on educating parents and children on Internet safety, rather than prohibiting access entirely.
What can I do to protect my child?
There are some wonderful resources (and entertainment) for children online; but it’s important that you and they, know the best ways to stay safe. Luckily, the ISPCC have produced some excellent guidelines for how you can go about this:
- Communicate & explain the risks
- Browse the web WITH your child.
- Keep the computer in the family room.
- Negotiate rules around Internet use.
- Be aware of, and use, Internet safety tools such as filters which block inappropriate websites.
- If your child tells you about an upsetting experience, don’t blame them; help them avoid the problem in future.
- Advise children not to provide personal information to strangers online.
- Instruct your child never to meet anyone they've met online without an adult.
- Teach them the 'Safe Click Code' and keep a copy near the computer.
Is internet access for kids something you worry about? What do you feel helps educate your children about online safety? And do you think the Bill is a good idea? For more information, go to ispcc.ie. And if you worry about how much to share on the internet, check out: Are We Wrong To Post Family Pictures On Facebook?