He was just eight years old when Mum and Dad decided to go away for the weekend and leave him in the house on his own.
‘Do what you like whilst we’re away and have anyone you like around. We’re not leaving you a key so don’t bother locking the door. If you do go out, go anywhere you want with whoever you want. Trust everyone and come back when you like, if you like.’
What a load of nonsense. You’ll be pleased to hear this story is made up. There can’t possibly be a parent in their right mind that thinks this is right. But, whilst we all agree this made up scenario should never happen, the sad thing is in real life, amazingly it does. Not in the context of ‘in real life’, but in the context of digital and online.
I hear of this happening a lot. Often, it’s when Santa has just brought along an array of tablets, laptops and mobile devices for excited children. I see them all too often handed out with no thought to what and who could be accessed in the big wide world of the internet of things. When you think about it, potentially, it’s scarier than the real world.
But you see, there lies the point. It is the real world. There’s nothing virtual about this at all. Just like letting your loved one wander around the street, talking to whoever they like, whenever they like. I don’t believe this blatant disregard happens intentionally. Who in their right mind would allow this to happen? I think it’s more likely the case of a lack of knowledge. Parents not knowing what they don’t know. Naivety.
I’m hoping this blog goes someway to helping. Please share with other parents that may find this useful.
So what do you do? Do you listen to your inner older generation? The one that tells you it wasn’t like that when you were their age and that they should be building things out of twigs and leaves and stuff instead. Or do you listen to your other side? The one telling you that technology is a big part of the world now. Would we really put our kids at a disadvantage by not allowing them to develop digital competence whilst accessing knowledge, learning about new stuff as well as having fun? We need those digital skills more than ever; of course all in moderation balanced alongside other useful things like eating, washing, talking, walking, exercise and fresh air.
Even with my reasonably robust technical background and digital skillset, it had me scratching my head as to what the solution was. Let no-one be embarrassed by not knowing. But please do be concerned as a parent if you choose not to take the time to find out what the solution could be.
The solution is this. A product by Norton called Norton Family. In my opinion, it is the most essential app by far for children. Top of the ranks towering higher than Minecraft and Google. An absolute must. According to Norton’s website, the award winning software ‘offers an impressive range of parental controls and monitoring features for parents of today’s hyper-connected kids.’ The free service provides features including web supervision, time constraints, reports on what is being searched for, social network activity, personal information protection and much more all in real time. The premium version, a steal at just £29.99 a year, adds on many more features like multiple device protection, virus protection, cloud storage and identity protection to name a few. By the way, Norton are not paying me to tell you these things. I just feel the need to let you know.
As a parent, you have access to a web-based control panel available on your computer or mobile, allowing you to see activity on your child’s devices as well as set up the rules on what can and cannot be accessed and when. The simple interface is easy to use and Norton’s support team are a great help when you need a helping hand.
It’s not the fault of the kids who fall foul to the ever growing scams, manipulative adverts and unscrupulous links out there. So I followed Norton's advice and use it to have open conversations about what is being accessed and why. If things are attempted to be accessed that shouldn’t be, you’re presented with opportunities to educate and advise on how to stay safe. Cyber bullying by text or social media? Perhaps this is the answer to nip that one in the bud too.
It’s not always about the bad stuff though. It’s quite enlightening to see what they’ve been searching for and looking at. There are great conversations to be had about what they’ve learned and discovered.
By far, this is the app that I’d most recommend to any parent. It’s a must. But whatever we do, let’s not kid ourselves. This virtual world stuff isn’t virtual. It is the real world. Our role as parents is no different when it comes to protecting our loved ones online as it is offline. So let's get this right.
You should check it out. It’s called Norton Family and you can find it just here.