Our kids are the first generation who will live their lives online. But along with the cute learning apps, the funny Youtube videos and the silly selfies they share with friends, come some very real problems and dangers that parents need to know.
Remember when every toddler and preschooler’s favourite pig suffered a YouTube hijacking? Fake Peppa Pig popped up in some scary AF videos which seemed legit, at least initially, until the story line unfolded.
Suddenly there was a sadistic dentist, a screaming pig, all kinds of shady and entirely inappropriate content. And Peps and the gang weren’t the only favourite kiddy characters getting a very kid-unfriendly makeover. Some apps have even prompted warnings from police after parents noticed strange requests, including that children ‘take off their clothes’.
Yes, the internet is such a valuable learning tool for little ones, and a handy communication tool for teens, but it’s also can be a pretty dark and bleak place too. So Mum Central spoke to cyber safety experts at Family Zone to find out exactly what parents need to do to keep children- from toddlers to teens – safe online. Keep on reading to find out what you need to know – and to try Family Zone for a whole month free.
How to keep kids safe
Just like parents screen what our kids read, what they watch on TV and whose homes they go to play at, we need to monitor online time carefully. Our kids’ exposure to inappropriate and dangerous content can start from the first time they log into YouTube Kids and it’s not going away.
Whether they’re toddlers or teens, children LOVE being online. YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Yellow (AKA the Tinder for Teens, yeah it’s a thing)… the list goes on. And the latest figures reflect it. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Aussie teenagers spend a whopping 18 hours online every week¹. For children, 10 hours of online time each week is the norm². In fact, Aussie kids now spend more time on the internet than they do watching TV. Even toddlers spend about two hours a day glued to screens³.
The super scary sticking point? For much of that time, us parents are often in the dark as to what our kids are actually doing.
What parents fear most
While it differs, depending on the age of their offspring, parents are almost universally concerned about the same things on the world wide web. Strangers and the sharing of personal information, either voluntarily or via techniques like ‘cat-fishing’, is what makes parents sweat. The amount of time kids spend online is also a worry for parents, especially for those with toddlers/younger children whose screen time needs to be limited, and teens, who will try almost every trick in the book to stay connected.
The thing is, the internet and all that it has to offer, can be a great thing for families. It’s a tool for teaching and connectivity that allows our kids access to information that wasn’t possible even a decade a go. It’s not something we want to ban, but it is something that needs to be monitored closely. And that’s the tricky part.
Ages, stages and the World Wide Web
So where should parents plant red flags and/or erect no-go zones?
“I meet a lot of parents who have the best intentions, who really want to put boundaries in place but they don’t know where to start.” Jordan Foster, Child Psychologist , ySafe and Family Zone Cyber Expert
According to the Family Zone safety experts, each age/stage has different concerns for parents.
YouTube is where it’s at for these guys. In fact, the under-eight set spend around two-thirds of their online time on the video sharing platform. If you’ve ever spent any time with a four-year-old, they can probably tell you all about watching a random woman in the US open a bunch of ‘Puppy In My Pocket’ bags, in search of ‘The Golden Rare’. If none of that makes sense, here’s a translation; woman with half a million subscribers films video of herself opening bags which contain small plastic dogs. There is a minuscule chance one may be the glittery, ‘golden rare’.
YouTube Kids contains a strong filtration system for adult and other inappropriate content but things (like the aforementioned pig hijacking) slip through the net. There’s also the time issue for kids of this age. It is recommended that kids aged 2-5 have no more than one hour of screen time per day. Children 6+ should have consistent limits set on how long they spend in front of the screen, with a general recommendation of around 90 minutes per day.
School age children
YouTube, often the unrestricted version, is still popular amongst the school crowd, as are games like Minecraft and other apps like Musical.ly and Livel.y. This is the age where kids start dipping their toe into social media platforms, with Facebook and SnapChat the most popular, even though the minimum age for creating an account on both platforms is 13. There’s also the extremely unsettling phenomenon of ‘sexting’ that may start to become a ‘thing’ with school children in upper primary or early high school. While sexting is generally more of an issue for the 14+ demographic, recent reports have indicated that kids as young as 10 have been pulled into the ‘sending a sexy selfie’ net. We’ll give you a moment to shake off that fact as it’s frankly terrifying.
Tweens and teens
We won’t sugar coat it. This is when s**t gets real, especially when it comes to social media usage. Tweens and teens are ALL over social media, with Snapchat and Instagram still ranking highly along with newer platforms like Yellow (often dubbed ‘Tinder for teens’) and chat apps Twitch and Meet Me gaining popularity. Family Zone Cyber experts agree that 13 should be the minimum age for social media usage, with certain platforms like SnapChat not being used till 16. Other platforms like Yellow, Omegle (graphic live webcam chat), Sarahah (which can be used for anonymous bullying), Whisper (which is completely uncensored) and Live.ly – (which offers live video content with minimal censoring) be completely banned and locked down by parents. Sexting and either deliberate or accidental forays into online porn also ramps up in the teen bracket.
As a parent, it’s scary as hell. We don’t want to remove the internet completely from our kids lives BUT we do want them to use it safely. We also want to be in control of WHEN our kids are online and for how long.
Say hello to Family Zone
Family Zone combines expert cyber safety knowledge with a program that protects every device, everywhere, for the kind of peace of mind that can only come from knowing that when your kids are online, no matter where they are or what they’re using, they’re protected. It’s a world first universal parental control platform which allows the internet to be used safely on your family’s individual terms. And you can even limit how much time they spend online. Bonus!
How does it work?
Family Zone has partnered with Aussie Cyber Experts to create a tailored solution for each individual family. Let’s break it down. Say you’ve got three kids; 3, 7 and 14. Each kid has their own tablet and the teenager has an iPhone. When you sign up to Family Zone, each of these devices is connected to the Family Zone box through the use of cloud based technology. Once connected, parents can use the Family Zone portal to connect with cyber safety experts who can advise on exactly what each child should have access to and for how long, based on their date of birth. This includes filter settings, social network controls and a suggested routine of play, study, school and sleep times (meaning no more tablet/phone), giving a great framework to work within and eliminating the hard work of keeping up to date with technology, apps and online risks.
Of course, parents can completely customise these settings. Parents can even create individual calendars where you can configure the daily internet access schedule, create different access routines for different types of days (i.e. weekends, holidays and school days) and pick and choose different access levels for a variety of platforms.
Online safety on the go
When kids are out and about (a key issue for parents of tweens and teens) their devices are still protected with the Family Zone app. Once this is downloaded onto a device, the same parameters that apply at home will apply wherever your child and their device may be. Easy peasy!
To put it simply, it gives parents back control (and gets kids off their devices when they need to be) with expert backup in the form of the cyber safety Family Zone team.
“Family Zone provides parents that peace of mind that you can set bedtime, so that your child doesn’t have access to all those social media accounts that they are checking. It takes the struggle out of it for everyone.” Jordan Foster, Child Psychologist , ySafe and Family Zone Cyber Expert
What does Family Zone monitor/block?
Family Zone identifies and eliminates content deemed dangerous or inappropriate. It scans and monitors the following:
- Web categories – Family Zone’s filtering engine scours the internet identifying new threats and categorising websites. Each site is allocated one or more of 80 categories and cyber experts sort them into age-appropriate profiles.
- Social networks – Family Zone allows parents to control access through daily routines to a large number of social networks. These include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Kik Messenger, Pokemon Go and more.
- Search engines – By default Family Zone’s filtered networks impose safe search restrictions on Google & Bing. All other search engines are blocked for users under 18.
- YouTube – By default Family Zone’s filtered networks impose strict adult content restrictions on YouTube. This blocks all adult rated or unrated content.
- Blocking of ‘the dark web‘ – The so-called “dark web” is an encrypted network that exists between Tor servers and their clients and is often where the really nasty stuff hides. Family Zone identifies tor download attempts and blocks them.
Want to give Family Zone a go? You can… FOR FREE! You can currently trial Family Zone for one month, free to see how it fits for your family.
The free trial allows parents to do the following:
- Block access and adult content
- Auto schedule screen time
- Restrict social media access
- Generate family usage reports & alerts
- Disable camera & in-app purchases
- Cyber expert advice
You also get access to six mobile zone apps to protect mobile devices, including phones and tablets, while your children are out and about.
Find out more about the trial and online safety for kids over at Family Zone.
This is a sponsored article for Family Zone