Kids Being Mobile Safe in School
Sending your children to school is always met with a suitcase of worries. Will they enjoy it? Can they cope with studying and exams? What sort of friends will they meet? The list goes on.
Nowadays it’s not just these concerns that can pray on a parent’s mind. Mobile phones and online safety and security are very real parental worries. I remember back to my high school years. I was 15 years old when I had a mobile phone. It wasn’t really allowed in school (I sneaked it in my pocket) and there was no online shopping, applications (apps), banking or social media. Times have changed.
Feeling confident that your children are using their devices safely and securely can be a tough cookie to crack.
What are the Issues?
Taking a real-world comparison; we would never let a four year old wander down the local high street on their own, as we know and understand the potential, physical dangers. Strangers, vehicles and getting lost are some examples.
In the Internet world things are a lot murkier and often within a few clicks away. Issues such as cyber-addiction, cyber-bullying and grooming are very real. All of these things you wouldn’t want your child encountering. It would be lovely to keep your children off mobile devices until they are 18(!) but it can be tough when their only mission in life is to own and use a mobile phone.
There are some things to consider when your child is using their mobile at school and away from the home.
- What is your child accessing on the Internet? That could be specific sites, apps, or content within an app: YouTube videos being a prime example or apps that could allow members of the public to contact them.
- Who is your child talking to? Do you know the friend she is itching to talk to every day, or are they someone they just met online? Are they being groomed? Are there any signs of bullying?
- Where are they accessing the Internet? Is your child in a shared space where you can just take a glance over their shoulder? Do they really need a mobile phone at school?
- How long are they on the Internet for? All their breaks and lunches at school and or free periods?
Thinking about all the above can give you a good picture of your child’s online profile when at school and away from home and give you an idea of what you may need to protect them from.
General Tips to Keep Your Child Mobile Safe at School
The Internet is often compared with junk food. An unhealthy quality and/or quantity both can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle and undesirable consequences. Unfortunately an unhealthy online lifestyle for a child may not have immediate and apparent effects so keeping a close eye on your child is important. Here are some other tips:
- Don’t ban the phone at school or demand to see what a child has been doing online, as it won’t nurture open discussions.
- Make sure you and your child is familiar with the school mobile phone policy and rules, if there is one, and encourage your child to use their phone when allowed.
- Sit down with your child and help them understand what they are looking at on the Internet. This is crucial for them shaping their online behaviour. It may mean difficult discussions are needed about certain websites; online porn for example.
- Have open conversations about social media and the pros and cons of using it. Aim to build a trust so you feel your child could talk to you if bullying became an issue.
- Discuss privacy and sit together and ensure social media sites and apps are set to private, with geo-caching off where possible to not allow strangers to get in contact. But keep the conversation open and ask the questions about online “friends”.
Reaching an understanding with your little one is something you will need to work on, and it’ll be a constant discussion point as they gain understanding of the world around them.
Physical Control over Your Child’s Online Safety
There is also the element of physical control. Some things on the Internet, even as an adult, you just don’t want to see. It is possible to avoid this happening with your children on devices at school with more technical control. This could be an app, web site settings, phone settings which control access.
This is a list of things that you can do either now, or in a short space of time that can immediately introduce an element of control over your child’s online activity when at school
This turns off “explicit results”, meaning that generally you won’t be able to get inappropriate search results back. The best way to get instructions on how to do this is to Google “SafeSearch on”. This is pretty effective, but will not be 100% accurate.
YouTube restricted mode
This is similar to Google SafeSearch, which blocks videos that are flagged as inappropriate. Again this is not 100% effective. You can also use YouTube kids which is heavily filtered.
Kids’ mode on the phone
This is especially useful for younger children where they have a password protected “sandbox” application where they can play. You can’t get out of the application without the password. This won’t have much appeal to an older child however.
Social Media Privacy Control
If you choose to let your children have social media accounts then this can restrict who can search for them. The key problem is that this can easily be turned off.
A Security Application
Kaspersky Security Cloud Family is a great example of this, which can be installed across iPhone, Android, PC and Mac. You have a single management account on your device, you install the application across all your devices, link the device to a child and you have the capability to do the following:
- Control what apps they can access on their device
- Control what category of content they can access
- Monitor what they access, and what is blocked
- Monitor their location, if they are allowed to take a device out with them
The Kaspersky app is very good, but I suggest you try a free trial as the features are very numerous and for the less-technical of us, it can be quite daunting. It is reasonably simple to set up and get running. One shortcoming of the app is that no technical control will cover “who” your child is talking to. If you let your children on a messaging app then it is very hard to control who talks to them.
Mobile phones are not going away and as parents we need to address our worries and concerns with our children when using them outside the house and at school.
The importance of your child’s understanding of the online world is very high. Educating your children about online safety is just as important as “real world” safety, and to our children the line between the two can be indistinguishable.
Of course this does not always feel “enough” as a parent and kids will be kids and not always been open and honest about all their online activities. This is where physically controlling your child’s mobile safety at school may put your mind more at ease and using some of the tips and apps in this article will help you do that.
Disclosure – This is a collaborative post.