The digital world changes daily and it might seem that children can often be better at understanding and using it than the adults in their lives. However, the pace of change and the nature of what is possible and accessible using digital technology means supporting our students to guide them in its safe and appropriate use as parents and teachers is more important than ever before.
Please find some guidance below to support conversations about using technology at home and school. If you have specific concerns you can also contact us directly on this topic using the school’s contact form.
Sometimes conversations about using technology don’t occur until things go wrong. By regularly checking in and taking an interest in what your child does online with their smartphone / tablet / PC etc, you can make it more likely that they’ll feel comfortable to tell you when things aren’t right. This will also help you to feel more empowered to ask questions when you’re concerned about their technology use.
Check what’s out there and what the potential pitfalls are
NSPCC ShareAware and Internet Matters.org are great resources created for parents. Both have a searchable list of popular apps, with an age guide and details to help you decide if it is appropriate for your child to use. This gives you an initial overview of what each app does; however, please be aware that we have come across some inappropriate uses of otherwise completely innocuous apps, so we have given some examples of the potential pitfalls below to help give you an idea of what to look for and ask your child about.
• Apps that offer live streaming
○ Live streaming is where someone shares their video live, as they make it. This can increase the risk of viewing inappropriate material and/or exposure to inappropriate comments or involvement by others as the content is made immediately available and isn’t subject to any checks. This was highlighted in the national news in June 2017 when a Channel 4 investigation found strangers were making inappropriate comments on videos being broadcast by children.
• Apps without strict privacy policies & apps that link strangers together
○ Contact with strangers:
▪ Online gaming can involve children coming into verbal or text contact with other gamers as they play with or against them within a game
▪ Some apps link random users together on purpose, or allow strangers to search, find and contact users who haven’t necessarily added them
▪ It can be very difficult for users to control who adds or follows them when the app or website doesn’t have strict privacy settings (i.e. who can view and comment on the content they share).
▪ Some websites and apps allow strangers to comment on posts or even photos of other people to ‘give feedback’
○ A child may think talking to a random person is just a bit of fun and may not be able to judge whether the interaction is appropriate or not. It may be that they are exposed to someone being unkind, rude, aggressive, age inappropriate and so on, which can be frightening and confusing.
• Lack of stringent age controls
○ In the UK, social media apps usually have a minimum age of 13 and sometimes older. However, this is often easy to get around by inputting a fake date or birth or ticking a box to say they are older. This can lead to children being able to access content that is intended for an older audience without parents being aware
○ An update to Snapchat in 2017 introduced a location-sharing feature that allows other users to see where you are, based upon your GPS signal and nearby WiFi connections. Whatsapp has also recently added a similar function, although it needs to be switched on by the user rather than being automatically switched on as standard.
○ Many photo apps (including Camera on iOS) have geotagging switched on as standard. This means the location of the photo (as it was
taken) is encoded into the image data. It is relatively easy for anyone ‘following’ the child’s social media uploads to use this data to locate
where the photo was taken to within a small range, such as the street you live on. This can be switched off in the settings for the specific app
but may not be something your child is aware that they need to do.
Your Internet Service Provider (e.g. Virgin Media, Sky, Talk Talk, etc) may have safety measures available that you can put in place on your home internet
connection. Here are links to some of the main ones:
Virgin Media - http://www.virginmedia.com/shop/broadband/parental-control.html