Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Child Safety Online from Toddlers to Tweens

My daughter is almost three years old and she's already shown an interest in computers.  At her kindergarten they even conduct some lessons using computers. Picking her up from school one day, during their free activity time, I found her sitting at the computer playing matching tiles using a mouse!!!  She has an idea what computers are for and mostly she wants us to play children’s songs from Youtube for her.

All this computer interest got me thinking… How safe is the internet for our kids?  They could be innocently searching around Youtube when they accidentally stumble across an adult version of Dora (as did a friend of mine).  How do we protect our children? 

toddler online
Image Source: www.adweek.com
Yes, at almost 3 years old they cannot do too much damage, but what happens once they are able to read and write?  When they hear something someone said at school and instead of asking you what it means they look it up on the internet only to be bombarded with who knows what kind of images?  What happens when a friend comes over to play and decides to introduce your child to subjects you would not approve of? And yes, I know they’d probably talk about it no matter what but I think that’s a whole lot different than showing images.  There is only so much your imagination can do when you don’t really know what it’s all about.

And all that I mentioned so far are really worries for tots or maximum up to 5 or 6 year olds depending on the child and its environment.  As they get older the dangers get deeper. What with online predators, cyberbullying, social networking, revealing too much personal information, gaming, mobile phones, blogs.  All these are mediums to be used by unsavory characters to gain access to our children. 

Cyberbullying can be done by peers through social networking sites, through your child’s own blog, mobile phones, emails. 

Predators can be anywhere, from social networks, to gaming sites, blogs and virtual worlds.  And a mobile phone can help enable those predators groom and exploit our children.

Peer pressure, from bullying to sexting, is enabled through social media, mobile phones and the internet.

There is so much of it out there that its really overwhelming, especially for us parents of pretty much the last parental generation that didn’t grow up wired as our children will be.

So what is the solution? Move to the mountains and live technology free?  I hardly think so.  But we do need to be aware of the dangers of the internet, educate our children about them, have an open line of communication with our kids but also most importantly take precautions.

Firstly, educational resources for parents and children about online dangers are everywhere, a few of the ones I found useful are NetSmarts, SafeKids, WiredKids, but there are many more.  It is good to read through them to have a better idea of the dangers that lurk so that you know what you need to think about when making your child safe.

Secondly, for precautions, at a young age especially there are child friendly browsers like KidZui, Kido'z, there is Glubble which is a Firefox plugin which makes the internet a more child friendly place.

With KidZui, for example, you can completely limit your child’s search options to only child friendly sites, games and videos.  Try typing in www.google.com and you will receive a message saying “Oh no! That page was blocked!”.  This means that they cannot go and search to download a different browser.  There is also Parents space where, if you create an account, you will receive weekly activity reports including time spent online, topics searched etc and you can customize their browsing experience to the age and gender of your child.

By creating a new user account on your computer for only your child you will pretty much completely limit their browsing options to Kidzui, just make sure you don’t have another browser also available.

I haven’t tried Kido'z but have read good things. It seems to be less cluttered and doing the same thing as KidZui.  So I think I'll give that a try too. The difference in Glubble is that it’s only a plugin and kids that know their way around the computer could really just download a browser they need so they say it’s useful for up to about the age of 12, but in this day and age much younger.

For older than that you pretty much have to ensure that your kids are educated enough about these dangers.  They should know what the pitfalls are and be able to stay clear as much as possible. They will, however, need your help, guidance, understanding but you could also get in touch with your internet provider to see whether they have options for limiting certain sites regardless of the browsers you have available. You may need to ensure that the people they “friend” on social networking sites are really people they know.

I hope this was useful.  I never thought that I’d have to start thinking about all this before my daughter was even three years old, but this is today’s world and these are our challenges.

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  1. Good morning, I'm following from Follow Me Back Tuesday. Thank you for your post, it's a reminder for all of us not to take the internet for granted. While it offers amazing opportunities, it can be a dangerous place especially for children. Have a great day.


  2. Thank you for covering this important topic. You have a great blog.

    I am a new follower.


  3. This is very helpful! Thanks for the brilliant info!

    I will give Kidzui a go, sounds suitable for my daughter who wants us to play stories and songs on Youtube for her but can also click on the ones she fancies from the list of related videos and as you know not all of them are child friendly. Try the Little red ridinghood for example and see what it will come up with!

    Off to get Kidzui...

  4. Your blog is adorable and for a Mom of 4, lots of wonderful information! New follower from FMBT. Come check me out at:

  5. SO happy to be following this blog! Found you from the hop. What a darling blog you have, love the title of Emma's lunch.

    Russo @ www.threegnomes.blogspot.com

  6. Thanks for the great thoughts and resources.

    Your blog has some great, fun things! I have three kids 6 and under, so I'll definitely be back. And I'm an "Emma's Mom" too :)

    I'm following from the Wed blog hops. Hope you'll stop by my blog


  7. I just found you on the blog hop.

    Great blog, I am following and will definitely be back.

    We have a similarly educational but fun Aussie blog.
    Our kids are just a couple of years older and we recently posted about Dance Mat Typing- have you heard of it??

    Please drop over when you have a chance- see you again!


  8. What an interesting post! Definitely something I need to start thinking about since my son is getting more and more interested in computers.

    I'm a new follower from It's Almost Friday Blog hop. Nice to meet you!

    Wife on the Roller Coaster

  9. Great post, I am not looking forward to dealing with cyber bullying etc with my boys :( It's good to be prepared though!

    I'm a new follower from Thirsty Thursday blog hop. I can't wait to read more of your posts. I'd love it if you would follow back :)


  10. Great info and topic that is so important!

    Hi, I’m your newest follower!!


  11. I found you on the Its Almost Friday Hop. I am your newest GFC follower. If you could check out my blog and follow me back I would appreciate it. Thanks Amber

  12. Really great site! My daughter is getting to that age where she's at risk. I think as a parent all you can do is spend the time educating them and doing what you can do in order to protect them. Look forward to checking back on your site as I follow it.

  13. Yeah so true how dangerous the internet can be! That's scary what you said about the YouTube Dora video! Wow.
    In answer to your question earlier, you can totally make the pancakes ahead of time and then freeze them right away for later. I actually do this sometimes because I make too many pancakes! Hee! Hee! Anyway I just put them in the fridge the night before and they are dethawed by morning and can be microwaved.
    Also, right now I mostly just use a "just add water buttermilk" pancake mix from the store for convenience sake. I've tried most of them and although each brand works slightly different, most of them are pretty good. Just make sure and mix up the batter with a mixer to get out any lumps and don't be afraid to add extra water if you feel the batter is too thick. I also have a family pancake recipe that I'll be working on perfecting soon and will share on my blog when I'm finished tweaking it. Happy Birthday to Emma!

  14. very important issue to blog about, my daughter was buying with my credit card at age 4!!! it's taught me just how computer savvy these kids are

    I'm a new follower from the hop. I'm Emma at http://majorloveoffilm.blogspot.com and http://llmcalling.blogspot.com

  15. Excellent topic and passionate writing. Too many parents are taking "what's the harm?" attitudes. I'd rather take charge BEFORE they face the danger than after.

    I'm a new follower from Thirsty Thursday.


  16. This is such an important issue. As a parent and the owner of an online childrens clothing store, I keep this in mind every day. I don't allow my 12-year-old on Facebook. Our store has a wishlist function so kids can "window shop" and then email their selections to their parents, relatives, and friends, but our policy is that kids under 14 cannot shop by themselves.

  17. It is true that nowadays children spend more time online than ever before and in many cases, more time online than offline. The vast expansion and popularity of the Internet among children and teenagers is something similar to what happened with video games in the 80s and 90s. However, this time the penetration and dominance of digital technology in everyday life have been taken to new extremes. With the advent of portable and handheld devices offering Internet access anytime and anywhere, it has become an extremely difficult task for parents to monitor their children’s online activity and habits, especially when they are outside of the house.


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