How do I know if a website or device is appropriate for my child’s age?
This is often a personal choice for you as a parent as you know your child’s maturity and know what boundaries you need to set. But, to help you, many of the leading internet, mobile, games and social networking providers have minimum age limits for either their whole service (eg you have to be 13 to use Facebook) or sections of it (eg 18+ content is blocked by Vodafone on mobiles registered to minors).
Why is it illegal to download music from some websites and not from others?
Many websites, such as iTunes, offer legal music download services, which ensure that royalties are passed on to the musicians and other relevant parties. Unfortunately, there are also a number of websites and software programmes, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, that offer free music content without the creator’s permission and without rewarding them – if you download unlicensed music from them, you’re breaking the law.
How do I set up a social networking profile?
Go to a social networking website like Facebook and sign up for free. You’ll be asked for personal information, such as your name, email address and date of birth. You can then create a Web page containing information about your hobbies and interests and photos and videos, if you wish, and you can set up contacts or ‘friends’ lists. If you get stuck, go the ‘Help’ section on the social networking website.
How do I go about choosing a mobile for my child?
There are so many mobile handsets and price plans out there, it can be difficult to choose. This checklist that the children’s charity Childnet has put together might be a useful starting point. Speak to your mobile network provider too – they should be able to give you advice about what’s appropriate for children.
I’ve tried emailing an article from the Parents’ Guide to a friend but it didn’t work – what can I do?
If you’d like to use our ‘email this page’ button to forward an article to someone you know, you’ll need to activate a default email application (eg Outlook) on your computer. If you don’t have a default email application set up and you’d prefer to email the article from a work address or a webmail account (eg Hotmail or Yahoo), you could copy and paste the specificURLfor the article straight into your email.
What do I need to know about the excessive use of technology?
What can I do if I’m worried my child is/could be using technology in an excessive way?
To help avoid excessive use of technology:
• In the same way that you have family rules in the real world, set clear boundaries for your child when it comes to their use of the internet, mobiles and other devices – eg how long they’re allowed on the computer, what kind of websites they can visit, which games they’re allowed to play, how many calls/texts they can make on their mobile and how much they can spend on extras (eg on websites like Stardoll or premium rate ringtone downloads)
• Set up Parental Controls and Safe Search based on their age and maturity to help protect them from accessing inappropriate or harmful content – but remember that they might not be 100% effective and aren’t a substitute for parental supervision
• For younger children in particular, consider signing up for a monthly mobile contract so that you receive an itemised bill and can see who they’ve called and texted. Tell your • child that you’ll be able to see this on the bill so that they don’t feel like you’re spying on them
• Read our articles about downloading & copyright, gambling, games, mobile costs and search
• If you’re concerned your child is becoming addicted to digital devices:
• If you’re worried they’re online or playing games in their bedroom in the middle of the night, move the computer/console/TV into a family room. You might even want to put some rules in place about when and where they use their mobile as some children are known to text late at night from their beds
• Don’t leave it until you’re concerned before you talk to them – keep the lines of communication open so that they know that you’re there for them.
What do I need to know about mobile phones?
Mobiles are a fact of life for many young people and smartphones, like the Android and iPhone, are becoming particularly popular.
As a parent, no doubt you like knowing that your son or daughter can contact you and you can contact them at any time on their mobile.
For your child, their mobile is vital for staying in touch with friends, accessing entertainment and much more. If they have a smartphone, they probably use it to send and receive emails, update their social networking profile or blog, watch videos, look up things on websites and take photos. Smartphones have really captured people’s imagination in recent years as they give you a mini-computer in your pocket. It’s no longer a case of just making calls and texts, now you use your mobile to get exciting applications (apps), access the Web, stay in touch with your friends in new ways, navigate your way to new places and much more.
As mobiles become even more powerful – with larger memories and greater processing power – you and your kids will be able to do even more with them.
Alongside all these positives, you need to be aware of the potential mobile and internet safety risks your children might face. For example, they could:
• Access inappropriate and harmful content on the Web or someone could send them a text or photo that upsets them
• Run up large bills by making lots of calls or signing up to premium rate services, such as ringtone downloads
• Receive threatening messages via their mobile (cyberbullying)
• Lose or have their mobile stolen
• Use their mobile to take naked or intimate photos of themselves and text them to their boyfriend or girlfriend (known as sexting)
• Use their mobile while walking or cycling, which could increase the risk of being involved in an accident. If they use their mobile while driving, they’re breaking the law
• Be located by strangers because of the location services on their mobile
• Use their mobile in public places where it might not be appropriate and take photos of people without their permission
• Recognizing these potential risks to younger mobile users, your mobile provider should be able to provide advice, support and built-in features to help you minimize them.
What can I do about mobile phones?
• Before you buy your child a mobile –be sure the handset and price plan are appropriate for their age and maturity
• Decide whether you want them to use Pay As You Go (where they pay for calls and texts themselves) or whether you’d rather sign up for a contract so that you receive an itemised monthly bill – we’d advise the latter for younger children, in particular
• Check whether Parental Controls are set as default on your child’s mobile – if not, ask for them to be switched on so they can’t access inappropriate and harmful content
• Understand how your son or daughter could be bullied (or could bully someone else) via a mobile by reading our article about cyberbullying
• Learn about sexting in our article about exploring sexual identity – it’s a growing trend among young people where they exchange naked or intimate photos and videos by text and email and it’s something you need to be talking to your kids (especially teenagers) about
• Check whether your child’s mobile has Bluetooth – if it does, it’s advisable to turn it off, particularly for younger children. Read our Bluetooth article for more information
• Get information about location services so that you can talk to your child about it
• Read our article about mobile theft and accident prevention, then talk to your child about how to keep their mobile safe from thieves and how to use it responsibly
If you’re concerned about the potential impact of mobiles on your child’s health, get the latest information in our mobiles and health article
What is online videos?
As little as five years ago, you might have watched a film or recorded a TV programme on your VCR or you might have made your own home videos using a video camera.
There’s lots of new terminology when it comes to digital video, such as:
Clips: These are short sections of video, usually taken from a longer piece (such as a film, music video or TV programme) or created by amateur film-makers (called user-generated content). There has been a boom in video clips online since 2005 thanks to websites like YouTube
Streaming: This is a way of delivering video footage to you live or on demand (after it has been broadcast) – BBC iPlayer is an example of video streaming
Vlogs: These are video blogs where someone might film experiences they have in real life and upload them on the Web for others to see
What do I need to know about online videos?
Your son or daughter might use the internet to watch videos of their favourite band, catch up on a TV programme they’ve missed or enjoy video clips produced by their friends; they might have fun making videos of themselves, their friends and family on their digital camera or mobile and posting them online.
There’s no doubt that video is a great form of entertainment and encourages creativity but, as with other digital content, there are some things you should be aware of as a parent.
• Some video content might not be appropriate for younger children to see – recognising this, many of the leading video-sharing websites have a minimum age limit of 13 and some offer filters so that you can limit the content your child sees
• If your child makes and publishes videos on the internet, they need to understand that anyone can see them and that they could be available online forever
• Your child’s privacy and safety could be compromised by something they reveal in a video about themselves – it could make them vulnerable to bullies, criminals or spammers, for example
What can I do about online videos?
If your child watches videos on the internet or on their mobile:
• Explain why it’s important they adhere to the age limits on video-sharing sites like YouTube – it’s for their own good, to help protect them from seeing inappropriate or harmful videos. If you discover that your child is under the minimum age for a particular video-sharing website, you should be able to contact the site to cancel their registration
• If you’re worried about the types of videos your son or daughter might be watching, consider supervising their use of TV, film and video-sharing sites and make the most of Parental Controls, PIN locks and Safe Search. For example, if they watch videos on YouTube, opt in to the website’s Safety Mode and, if your family has a YouTube password, lock it on your browser
If your child makes videos and uploads them on the internet:
• Teach them to ‘think before they post’. Ask them: Would they want their teacher/a future employer/a complete stranger to see their video? Could their video compromise their privacy or make them vulnerable to bullies or criminals? Would they want their video to be available on the internet for the rest of their lives?
• Encourage them to use built-in tools on the video-sharing site so they can mark their video as ‘private’ – that way only their friends and other people they choose to share it with can see it
• Explain how important it is to not include any personal information like their name, mobile number, school uniform and photos of their house in videos they make (ie anything that could help a stranger track them down)
• Ensure that they get the permission of everyone in the video before they publish it – not everyone wants to be famous
• If they receive a video from someone else (eg via email or text) that shows someone being bullied, encourage them to let you know and to not pass the video on to anyone else
• Explain to them that they shouldn’t post videos showing gratuitous violence or reckless conduct, such as substance abuse and dangerous driving
• Talk to them about copyright – they should only post videos that are completely their own work. If their video includes TV or music clips, for example, they might be in breach of copyright. For more information, read our article about downloading & copyright
• Just as you teach them to show respect in the real world, encourage them to respect other people in the digital world (eg comments about a video they’ve made)
• Let your son or daughter know they should come to you if anyone threatens or upsets them because of a video they’ve posted online so that you can help them take the right action