Is she safe online?

My daughter is safe on the internet. I know she is. I have set up the parental controls and keep an eye on her to see what websites she’s on. I get a a report each week detailing her internet activity. Yes she is safe. Or so I think so…

The ‘A Brush with Authority’ podcast has made me think about crime as it might affect my daughter. She doesn’t go out on her own into situations where she could get into trouble at the moment. So it is online where she most likely to get into trouble.

For us internet time is after school, after homework, after dinner. We have a routine. She has ‘alone’ time, code meaning she’s fed up with us. She has time on her tablet near us but not always with us in the room the entire time. Nothing unusual there.

But what does she do in her internet time. I know it’s not Facebook or other social media because we haven’t set her up on any of those yet. Like all our sons and daughters with additional needs she is vulnerable. Grooming is our chief concern, as for any parent. Yet I think it’s more than that.

She does not always split fact from fiction. She takes things literally, so ‘hit the road’ in our house can mean exactly what it says. This not always understanding language in the same way as peers her age means she doesn’t always know when something isn’t right. Some content posted online is simply not true.  The written word can lie just as easily as a politician can manipulate the truth.

Add as friend imageA few years ago she was on the Moshi Monsters virtual community and someone befriended her. Nothing strange there except their user name was offensive, certainly not something I could write here. Anyone with a better understanding of language would have known this slang term was racist. The website dealt with it very quickly once they knew but it certainly made us extra diligent.

So now we do check her internet history, and pretend to return something to her for the price of a peak to see what she’s watching. Usually not revealing much. Usually vloggers. Two girls, cooking pizza. Nothing dangerous there. But what if…

I don’t think she’d tell us straight away at least. So I’ve started to look outside for advice on how to make her safer online. Some of the websites we have looked are on our online safety page.

The National Crime Agency in the UK suggests 3 steps:
1. Create a family contract. Decide boundaries so it will be easier to keep our children safe.
2. Make sure they know how to get help. Tell them who they should speak to if not yourselves when something upsets them. If they receive an attachment of any sort they should not open it but speak to you first.
3. Continue the conversation. Speak about who their online friends are, and how they be online friends to others. Help them discover websites they enjoy. Discuss the difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’.

Clearly with rule 1 we set this up. Our daughter has her alone time but we limit it. But we don’t tell her what sites she can and can’t visit but we limit these through the parental controls. This contract idea is good, but it’s not always easy to implement it.

Rule 2 might include looking at resources such as the Thinkuknow website. The idea is if children look through this website, they will know how to report problems or concerns to the right people. While this is sensible advice, I’m not sure I want to cause alarm by going to this website more than once to show her it is there. I think I’d prefer the reporting to come about through the next rule.

Rule 3 could be regarded as ironic, especially as teenagers make it their purpose in life to not listen to parents. But for me this one is the key. This is where I can share some interests with my daughter and speak about things other than ‘how was your day at school today’. I’m going to try this one more. Perhaps we might discover we share a liking for Morris dancing, sheep dog trials, or country music.

Many of my thoughts this week have been about crime, hence the internet. Ian in his podcast, made me understand how difficult it is for our young people to report crime if they are afraid of figures in authority. He has made us think we need to do more to help our daughter with this, because it will be the police she will need to call on if she ever does get in trouble.