When this article from Internet Matters popped into my inbox, I thought "yeah, yeah, I know all that already, use parental control and put a password on to stop unauthorised downloads" but then I got to the end and thought "ooh, I'd never heard of those". If nothing else, make sure you scroll down to the end for details of the free apps to help kids get out of tricky sexting situations with a witty retort - I'll definitely be sharing them with Sophie for future reference, just in case.
According to Internet Matters – the child internet safety organisation founded by the UK’s four major broadband providers, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media - nearly a third of mums and dads let primary age kids download apps without their permission. Among dads, 34% said they allowed the new software to be bought or downloaded for free without a prior agreement with their children. Mums were stricter though, with only 25% saying the same.
The findings come just as pupils have returned to school with experts encouraging mums and dads to check what apps their youngsters may be talked into installing on their mobiles by friends. This can be difficult for parents because they can never be sure what new apps their children might be discussing in the playground.
The survey also showed that while three quarters of parents believed they were “confident or a little confident” in knowing what apps they should or shouldn’t ban, 3 in 10 did admit they only have an “average” understanding of what apps are suitable. To counter this, the new Internet Matters app guide can be found at www.internetmatters.org - giving parents a wealth of information and knowledge to learn about a host of different apps.
Examples of new apps that parents should be aware of include so-called “decoy” apps such as Secret Calculator, which can hide personal pictures and videos within the app behind a unique personalised code. Further lesser-known apps highlighted include Poof, which instantly hides open apps at the touch of a button, and more anonymous messaging services such as MeowChat and Whisper.
Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of Internet Matters said: “There are over three million apps available and this number increases daily. Understandably parents find it difficult to keep track of the apps that their children use. Many apps are great learning or entertainment tools but some may create risky situations for children and could put them in harm’s way. We want to encourage parents to talk about these issues and to help we have created a comprehensive App Guide for Parents on internetmatters.org.”
Claire Lilley, head of child safety online at NSPCC, adds: "For many young people socialising on the move through mobile phone apps is part of everyday life. They can be fantastic resources for children and young people, but it’s important that both parents and children are aware of the potential dangers. These can come from peers as much as they can from strangers. Risks for young people include cyberbullying, being exposed to inappropriate content, and grooming - where someone builds an emotional connection with a young person in order to sexually abuse them.”
Internet Matters’ Top Five Tips for Parents on App Safety
Hold the Password Keys – Do not give young children the password to your app download account or allow them to have their own. Not only will it enable them to download apps without your permission, it could also prove costly should they unwittingly make expensive in-app purchases. With Twitter trialling a ‘BUY’ button in the US this week, make sure you keep an eye on which apps offer in-app purchasing.
Check Their Settings – Check your child’s privacy settings on their smartphone or tablet, looking out for whether they are set up to prevent sharing of things like location, contacts, photos or calendars. Sharing a location may allow people they chat with to see where they are at given times.
Educate Children On The Risks – The Internet Matters website features a range of help and advice for parents on topics such as cyberbullying, sexting, explicit or offensive content and chatting to strangers. This comprehensive resource has been gathered from a range of internet safety experts such as Childnet, NSPCC and CEOP.
Be Savvy About Social Networks – Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have rules saying children under the age of 13 should not hold an account, so stand your ground on when your child can have access. Once they are old enough to have such an account, help your teenagers create strong privacy settings that will work when using popular social networking apps.
Brush Up On Your Apps – It is important parents understand and educate themselves on the latest apps. Each has an age-appropriate rating to allow them to decide whether it is suitable for their child. If in doubt, download it and try it out for yourself. Searching the internet for details of a particular app can also provide useful assurances or warnings.
Three Apps to Help Kids
Send This Instead - Developed to help children combat sexting from peers. It gives a range of optional images with humorous messages so children can send these as a response to sexting, putting them back in control.
Zipit - Made by ChildLine, Zipit aims to help teenagers deal with difficult sexting and flirting situations. It offers humorous comebacks, advice, and aims to help teenagers stay in control of flirting when chatting.
Kuddle - This is a photo-editing and sharing app that combines social media with 'netiquette' and educational information about online behaviour and risks.
For information on the Internet Matters initiative please visit: www.internetmatters.org
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