The world has changed so much since I was at school. My secondary school was in my village and if I remember well, there were about 300 pupils in the whole school. The school was about a mile away from home, and I would walk with friends or get a lift from one of the neighbours. Mobile phones didn’t even exist at the time, other than huge brick ones the odd rich businessman would walk around with (does it make me sound old?). We had a phone box at school that could be used for emergencies. I only ever used it once (to call a friend). Everyone has a phone now, even children. Keeping kids safe online is a big priority for parents, me included.
I didn’t have a mobile phone until I was 19 years old. I didn’t need one. Things are really different now. My 3-year-old can navigate my tablet. She can open Netflix, choose a programme and select the episode she wants. She can turn the sound up or down and if she gets bored, she knows how to leave and move on o to another app. Children are tech savvy from a very early age these days. It’s fascinating and terrifying all at once.
Crevette (9 years old) is already begging for a phone (all the cringe). Although it’s not something I’m considering now, he goes to secondary school, I am pretty sure I’ll get him a phone. If he has to travel a few miles on the bus and school is a few miles away, I want to make sure he can get in touch with me.
There are downsides though. When I was a secondary school teacher, I would stick strictly to the ‘no mobile phone’ policy. There were several reasons for that, and the most important one in my eyes was the child’s own safety. Expensive handsets attract attention, and they could get stolen.
Grooming via social media, cyberbullying and stumbling upon inappropriate content are also scary thoughts. Teenagers could also be hurt if they’re walking around chatting on their phones or listening to music instead of paying attention to what’s going on on the road they’re crossing. The more I think about it, the more scenarios come to my head… Don’t you wish you could guard your children against every form of danger?
Another issue I have with mobile phones at secondary school is they are a distraction. Most students are reasonable and really keep theirs well hidden and off during class, but once in a while, you get a phone vibrating or disrupting a lesson. That’s completely out of order.
I also believe no valuables that could be stolen or broken should be brought into schools. Most 12-year-olds are not particularly careful with their belongings and I would go for an inexpensive handset, or an old phone of mine. Peer pressure is an issue though. What if everyone has the latest iPhone? Fitting in when you’re a teenager is tough…
Pros of having a mobile phone at school:
- Keeping in touch with parents
- Educational apps
- WhatsApp to send exact location if lost / looking for someone
- Find my iPhone can be used by parents to check where their child is (not in a stalky kind of way / just for reassurance i.e. if they’re late – am I weird for even considering doing that?)
Cons of having a mobile phone at school:
- Against school rules in most cases
- Screen time
- Risk of distraction in school
- Safety whilst crossing roads
- Risk of being robbed
- Could break or get lost
Keeping kids safe online: is that even possible?
I have tried several online security apps, but I have never really been fully happy with any of them until recently. I am currently using Kaspersky Security Cloud (the family package) on our mobile devices and it makes me feel so much more relaxed about them using my mobile or iPad (they don’t have their own tablets).
Within seconds of logging in, I managed to secure my connection. That’s not something I’d ever seen before. To simplify the whole VPN thing, it helps you secure the data you share so you leave a trace that’s as small as possible. It basically means you privately connect through public WiFi (I like that VERY much) and you’re also a lot less visible to websites collecting data. It’s a lot more secure to do any form of financial transaction (think online banking, PayPal transfer, those cheeky eBay or Amazon purchases).
The one thing I love the most about the package I am currently using is ‘Kaspersky Safe Kids.’ It really does help parents protect children against potential digital dangers. It manages device and apps usage, lets you monitor your child’s communications. I can picture a few raised eyebrows here – my children know that nothing on a mobile device is 100% private and I have warned them I was monitoring everything. Eyebrows down, please. Eyebrows down. You can also manage your child on a map with the app. Honestly, do you even have any idea what your children are up to when they’re on their tablets or your phone?
As you’re setting up ‘Safe Kids,’ you can find advice on what to tell children about the app and the fact you’re monitoring their online activity. That’s absolutely brilliant, with age-appropriate advice. Some apps are hidden and the browser is replaced with a safe version.
5 Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online
- Explain to them that whatever they put online is there forever. It can’t be taken back, really removed or forgotten about.
- The best way to avoid cyberbullying is probably to not be a cyberbully yourself. It’s important for children to understand that they should only ever communicate with other Internet users the way they would in real life. Spreading gossip online, ‘having a laugh’ at someone’s expense or mocking an unflattering photo online is the same as doing it in real life.
- Be a good role model. Don’t tell them something a do the exact opposite, like checking Twitter in bed, mocking people through the latest viral meme on Facebook or texting at the dinner table.
- Keep up to date with technology. It is all developing at lightning speed, and the only way to keep our children safe is to keep up with them.
- Use software like Kaspersky Security Cloud, which allows you to keep an eye on your children’s activity on their devices, limit screen time, block inappropriate apps or browsers. If anything suspicious is detected by the app, it will send an alert to your own device. If your child is old enough to use social media (No. Never!), the security cloud also lets you monitor their activity on there.
- More tips here.
To be completely honest, it’s a relief that I have another two years or so before I have to worry about handing Crevette his very own phone. Do your children have mobile phones? Do you feel they’re safe online?
Extra information added on 24/10/17:
Kaspersky respond to allegations that their software was hacked by the Russian government
Allegations were made against Kaspersky Lab a few days ago, claiming the cybersecurity company was tied with Russian hackers and Russian secret services to spy on its customers and access their private data. On Thursday, Eugene Kaspersky responded to the allegations in a video on Youtube. Kaspersky Lab also posted an article which examines the story in context.
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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All photos and opinions are my own.