Matt Forde: Kids must learn to navigate online

Minecraft is hugely popular among childre
Minecraft is hugely popular among childre
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Minecraft, Instagram and Habbo Hotel are as much a part of today’s children’s lives, as Rubik’s Cubes, slinkys and spacehoppers were for their parents. But keeping up with constantly changing apps and internet trends can be even more difficult for today’s parents than trying to untangle a twisted slinky.

We recently asked a panel of Mumsnet parents to review the safety of the top sites and apps that children use. All of the sites aimed at teenagers and adults were too easy for children under 13 to sign up to. And children themselves tell us that the minimum age of many of the sites they sign up to should be higher.

It’s all too easy for a child to overshare information online. Our ChildLine service regularly hears from children who have taken risks online, often without even realising it. Like Alex and Lucy, whose stories feature in our new Share Aware campaign adverts, the consequences for the children who speak to ChildLine can be devastating.

Of course, government and the industry have a role to play in making sure that sites are as safe as possible for children. But just as teaching our children about road safety starts with parents, the same needs to be true as we teach our children to navigate the online world.

Having conversations at an early stage can help build trust and openness and get preventative messages across. That’s why we’re asking parents to be Share Aware.

By giving parents straightforward, no-nonsense advice through the Share Aware campaign we want to help them untangle the web and feel confident talking to their children about online safety.

Using the reviews of our 500-strong Mumsnet parent panel we have created a new online guide to help parents understand the risks of different social networking sites used by children.

Rated by parents for parents, the guide can help parents make informed choices about which social networks they are happy for their children to use. The Share Aware site also provides conversation-starters to help parents talk to their children about what they share online, advice about using parental controls and what to do if something does go wrong.

The internet is an amazing place. To help children get the most out of it safely, we all need to be Share Aware.

For more information visit www.nspcc.org.uk/shareaware.

Matt Forde is head of NSPCC Scotland services