By Bianca Louw
In February of this year Youtube launched an application specifically for children called Youtube Kids. This app is available in more than 60 countries world wide and provides a version of the youtube service oriented towards children. It has curated selections of content, parental control features, and filtering of videos not deemed to be appropriate to the target audience.
The app was barely released when warning posts started circulating on social media about inappropriate videos available on this app. Videos containing violence, and graphics not suitable for children. Most recently South African parents have been warned about the “Momo Challenge”. Allegedly children are ‘doxed’ into self-harm and violent tasks through whatsapp messages. Doxing is when someone hacks your private information and then threatens to share it online or on a public forum.
We can no longer deny that technology has become part of our lives. Children are exposed to technology from a much younger age, so what should we as parents do to protect our children?
It is important to always have a safe space where families can freely communicate about their concerns. Sit down with your child and ask them if they have heard about Momo, explain to them what the challenge is about and have an open conversation about it. You could even watch this video of Philip DeFranco with your children to understand it better. When children understand what the challenge is they will not be curious about it and “investigate” it by themselves.
Protect your child by not sharing any personal information or photos of your child on social media. If you have a need to share photos make sure your security settings are in place. Friends and family must not be able to share your posts, and strangers must not be able to view your posts. Explain to your child that they must never share personal information online. What is personal information? Your name, surname, contact details, address, identity number, where you go to school, what sport you do, etc.
If you would like your child to be able to play games, watch Youtube kids, ect use a shared device. This way the whole family has access to the history of what was viewed. The device must also be used in a space where the rest of the family is present, this way you as the parent can have a look at what is displayed on the screen.
Setup healthy rules with your children and explain why each rule is in place.
- Setup limits on how long your children can use devices each day.
- Make time for fun family activities where children play without any electronic devices.
- Agree on what types of content they may watch, and help them set it up.
- Encourage your children to talk to you when they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- NO personal information may be given to anyone unless you as the parent agrees to it.
- Teach your children about viruses, identity theft and phishing. Help them understand that there are people out there who might want to cause them harm.
- Let your child know that you will be checking the internet history often. Not to threaten them or check up on them, but rather as an extra precaution for their safety.
- Setup applications to help you monitor content, applications like Spyzie, Bark, Family Time, ESET, etc.
Read and learn
There are new threats daily, make sure that you as parent understand as much as you can on internet safety. Learn the signs and symptoms of Cyberbullying and how to protect your child from sexual predators. Knowledge is power, share the information you find with your children and be open about your concerns and the dangers of the internet.