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It’s National Anti-Bullying Week.  When Jensen was a baby I was so sure [and so smug] that he wouldn’t be using computers or electronic devices – I was going to keep him away from the evils of the internet and he would only climb trees and hunt for bugs outdoors.  As the mister is a software engineer himself, he wasn’t keen on the idea of a whole lot of technology entering out baby’s life either and for the first four years of Jensen’s childhood, we stood by that.
Fast forward another year and half and our two bigger boys have iPads.  They use my iPhone and download apps [free apps – I learned my lesson from other parents with huge bills], and they’re asking Father Christmas for a Wii U so that they can play Super Mario Bros like they do at their granny and granddad’s house.  For the most part, in our little bubble, it is going well.  The boys are learning and enjoying the modern technology that we didn’t have when we were growing up.
The future of technology is a worry for parents.  And not just because at some point, we won’t keep up [unless our careers demand that we do] and we’ll be left way behind our offspring, but because where there is scope for pleasure and curiosity about the world, there undoubtedly is a huge possibility of hurt and damage.
After hearing of the worst cases in the news, I took part in a Google Hangout with Kaspersky Labs who have been researching the rise of cyber-bullying amongst school children.  As parents of children with varying ages, a number of interesting points arose from our conversation, including how we each choose to try our best to protect our children.
Children begin to access message sending devices at a very young age – and often do not understand the implications or impact that these can have on their or others’ future and prospects.
It’s very clear that cyber bullying [which in reality is just bullying] isn’t limited to the main social networking sites – although shockingly as a teacher I’ve experienced [and reported] cases of children I’ve taught bullying others on Facebook, where pages have been set up to mock and taunt other students – all of whom were well below the age 13 limit for Facebook’s terms of use policy.
For me as a parent, I worry most about what I don’t know – because what I don’t know is hurting my children, I can’t help with.  With a myriad of networking sites, apps and other electronic communication devices available to children, cyber bullying is increasingly hard to detect by its subversive nature.  Moreover, whilst children are so young they are often unaware that they are being made the victim of bullying in this manner and do not understand the distinction between someone being unkind to them and those who bully.
Steps which were discussed that I found helpful during the hangout were:
  • Ipads, computers all used in family areas – never in secret.
  • Keep an open dialogue about safety online, just as we would with road safety.
  • Having five people that our children identified as able to help when they are hurt or upset.
  • Not using applications until the recommended age.
  • Retailers could be more forthcoming about how to use technology in a child-safe manner.
On reflection, the message I came away with from our discussions was that educating our children in the responsible use of technology and instilling a sense of accountability for their actions online is the best course of action to take – and the path we will be trying to tread in our household in the future.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher as a token of thanks for this post.

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