Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram; many of us will have at least one of these on our phone – and why not? These apps provide a quick way of communicating and sharing moments with our friends and family. However, it could be argued that our need to be up to date with absolutely everything has led to us neglecting the most important aspect – safety among young internet users.

Today is Safer Internet Day, designed to promote the safe and responsible use of digital technology among young people and children. This got me thinking – “has online safety been so neglected, that we need a special day to remind us to keep children safe?” Surely not.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Has online safety been so neglected, that we need a special day to remind us about it? Surely not.[/inlinetweet]

The internet is available everywhere. Those classic MSN moments of “BRB, mum needs the phone” have disappeared. We can now use the phone, watch a film, chat on Facebook and view pictures from the other side of the world simultaneously. This is one of the great things about the growth of technology and social media. However, whether we like it or not, this amount of freedom opens the door to a greater risk. Today, the BBC published an article that outlined just how easy it is for youngsters to become vulnerable online. More than three quarters of children aged 10-12 have social media accounts. Considering 10 year-olds are still in primary school, this came as a surprise to me. When I started secondary school twelve years ago, my friends were only just becoming interested in mobile phones. Those who did have one would have the simplest model, and were told repeatedly by their parents that it was “for emergencies only”. Fast-forward ten years and young people are sending Snapchats, urging friends to like their latest Instagram posts and tweeting their celebrity idols non-stop.

According to a recent survey, one in three 10-12 year-olds with a social media account said they’d made friends with people online, who they hadn’t met in person. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]How do parents know whether their children are talking to their friends, or total strangers?[/inlinetweet] Are they sharing and receiving age-appropriate material? Are they being exposed to online bullying? Safer Internet Day conducted their own survey, where they discovered that more than four in five 13-18 year-olds have seen ‘online hate’, such as offensive or threatening language. When it comes to the internet and social media, there really are no limits. It is not just mobile phones that leave young people vulnerable to internet dangers. Millions of children now have their own laptops, tablets and televisions. Many parents won’t have heard of some of the social platforms their children use. In addition to this, many children continue to use their phones and tablets long after they’ve said goodnight to their parents. This is where much of the problem lies. However, there are some tools available to parents who are concerned about their children’s online safety.

Mobicip

Mobicip is a filtering service, designed to help create safe online environments. It could be downloaded at home for family use, as well as for schools and businesses. Opening an account enables the user to filter internet material and monitor browsing history. One account can monitor multiple smartphones, computers and tablets. All devices are monitored from one computer or mobile device.

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Mobicip uses categorised filtering levels, each based on commonly requested restrictions from users of the tool. There are four filter levels:

  • Mature – the least restrictive level, only blocks adult oriented and mature content.
  • Moderate – blocks weapons, violence, proxy, virus and hacking content, in addition to the Mature level restrictions.
  • Strict – blocks Google images, online shopping, gambling, dating, alcohol and chat sites, in addition to the Moderate level restrictions.
  • Monitor – allows unrestricted access to all sites and content, but records and reports all browsing history and activity.

A basic Mobicip account is FREE – you can sign up here.

 

DinnerTime Plus

DinnerTime Plus is an app available on both iOS and Android, to monitor and control your children’s mobile and tablet usage. The name says it all. We all know how difficult it is to get your children to join in the conversation around the dinner table – now there’s a solution! You’ll be able to set instant ‘dinner time’ or ‘take a break’ breaks, which will pause the selected device for up to 24 hours. You can also schedule up to two ‘scheduled breaks’, at bedtime or homework time (they’ll love you for that one).

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Of course, the key thing is still safety. Dinnertime Plus also allows you to set permitted apps, while enabling you to block the ones you think are not appropriate. You can also set time limits for how long your child can use the device, or a specific app. If there is activity on the phone which appears unusual, you will receive a notification alerting you. The upgraded version of the app will also allow you to:

  • Add up to 5 different children’s devices
  • Access reports of your child’s usage yesterday, today and for the last seven days
  • 24 hour history: see your child’s device usage history for the last twenty-four hours
  • Six extra scheduled breaks: parents can now create up to eight scheduled breaks

DinnerTime Plus uses cloud technology, so as long as you have an internet connection, you can manage all devices in real-time. It’s free download here from the Apple Store, and here from Google Play.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Internet safety is paramount in a world with such advanced technology.[/inlinetweet] Social media has become a tool used by businesses all over the world, as well as individuals wanting to keep in touch with friends. Safer Internet Day is a great way of reminding us of the ways in which we can keep young people safe. If you’d like to know more, go to UK Safer Internet Centre for more information.