Siân is a 30 year old mum of two children under four. She is a full-time university student, studying philosophy, politics and economics. She writes a blog called ‘You’re not from round here’in her spare time! Having always been interested in the internet and computers, she is now realizing the potential dangers to her children, in spite of their age.
I have used the internet since 1997 when I was 15, making me a child of the internet generation, just! It was pretty basic then and was in its infancy. In 1998, when chatrooms were just starting up, I joined the football (soccer) chatrooms. I used to log in daily and arranged to meet people pretty often. I usually met up with them at football matches, surrounded by many other people. Back then my mum didn’t know what I was doing. She didn’t really know how to use the computer, let alone the internet.
However, internet grooming already existed back then (not that I knew it at the time). I had been chatting online to someone who said they were 18 and was a Portsmouth fan. He sent me e-mails most days and we would ‘meet’ in the chatrooms in the evening. We arranged to meet up in person in a pub in Portsmouth when my football team was playing his. I got there with my female friend but he wasn’t there. However, there were a couple of older men (in their 50s) who insisted on buying us lots of drinks. I am fairly certain now that one of these 50 year old men was in fact the ’18 year old’ I had been chatting to online.
When I moved to London age 17, I continued to use chatrooms, the idea being to make new friends in a city I didn’t know. Now when I look back, I definitely put myself in danger. I met one person on a street corner; he picked me up in his car and drove off. I didn’t know where we were going and I hadn’t told anyone I was going out. Luckily all was fine and he was an ok (ish) kind of guy and he listened to me. It could have been so different though. There was no information for parents back then about the dangers of the internet. Nothing to warn them of what their children could be getting up to.
The internet can, however, be a fantastic place. Back in that football chatroom in 1998, I met two boys who supported my team. We arranged to meet up at the football match that weekend. Fourteen years later we are still great friends. We went on holiday together, travelled the UK going to football matches and went drinking together. They are two people I know I could rely on if I really needed help. We have all grown up, got married and had children, but we still share the love of that football team!
We are now far more aware of the potential dangers to your children browsing the internet. Even my son, age three has managed to get to a few random YouTube clips on my phone just by pressing a few different buttons. Your children have access to myriad information on the internet; some good, some bad. How can you protect them from finding something they should not see, or monitor their chat room use?
This is where AVG comes in. They have Family Safety software which can be used on your computer and is accompanied by a free mobile app. The software is there to:
- Protect your children from unsuitable websites
- Monitor their searches
- Be notified of cyber bullying and grooming
It is a fantastic idea and, whilst it seems a bit Big Brother-esque, it is surely better to be keeping an eye on what sites your children are visiting and who they are talking to, rather than them getting into danger. The software uses key-stroke technology to monitor your child’s activities in chat-rooms and on social networking sites. If it spots words or phrases that are known to pose a risk to children online, it will notify you immediately via SMS or email. You can set up different profiles for different children. You can also protect your children when using an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or a Windows Phone mobile device if you download AVG Family Safety® from the Apple App Store or Windows Phone Marketplace. Then you will have the same level of protection when they are searching and surfing on mobile devices as you do on personal computers.
You can find more information about keeping your family safe online on the AVG Family Safety website.