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Live webchat with Tanya Byron about internet safety, Wed 24 Feb, 1pm

(136 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 22-Feb-10 12:43:32

We're very pleased that Tanya Byron is our guest again. She'll be online from 1pm - 2pm this Wednesday, 24 Feb.

Tanya is a practising consultant in child and adolescent mental health who has two children of her own. She's the author of three books and a well-known broadcaster.

Ahead of the chat, Tanya has sent us this to post on her behalf:

I really enjoyed my last webchat on Mumsnet and found the the questions and insights really interesting.

I have recently been asked by Gordon Brown to review internet safety since my Safer Children in a Digital World report (the Byron review) in 2008.

To ensure my review takes in parents' views, I'm really keen to get Mumsnetters' perspectives on both the opportunities that you think the internet gives your children and also the risks you've encountered.

I'd like to chat about anything to do with internet safety, but to get your thoughts flowing, a few starting points could be:

Is there enough information which is easily accessible about internet safety?

Where do you get your information and advice on internet safety?

How good are schools at educating children about internet safety?

What do you think about internet safety in the context of videogames, games consoles and mobile phones?

Look forward to chatting to you on the 24th!

whispywhisp Wed 24-Feb-10 13:14:18

My daughters go to a school where they are given their homework via Education City - I have always said nothing beats pen and paper but I guess its easier/cheaper/more convenient for schools to send homework out this way....if a child doesn't have internet access at home they are given something different so the pressure is on for all kids to have internet access at home....

It is all too easy for kids to fall out with their friends on the internet too - MSN for word can be so easily misunderstood and that's it, world war 3 has broken out at school the following day.

I watch my kids when they're on the internet - fortunately we have a laptop and I insist they use it at the kitchen table and I hover....I don't allow them to download anything, add anyone to MSN conversations or play any games on the computer without my prior knowledge.

The biggest danger lies with kids who have access to the internet and are shut away, in their own rooms, with no parental guidance...

donnie Wed 24-Feb-10 13:14:48

btw spidermama I agree with you about a networking site for that age group.

ButterPie Wed 24-Feb-10 13:16:20

My children are both under three, and I would like to introduce to the internet gently. Up to now, the two year old uses the cbeebies website and the webcam, both under supervision, but, as she gets more independent, what is the best way of keeping her safe?

DrTanyaByron Wed 24-Feb-10 13:18:55

Spidermama, you are right to highlight the lack of social networking provision for 8-12 year olds which means that many children of this age group are on established social networking sites despite the fact that they are under 13 years old - the age within the SNS acceptable use policy that they should be. Many parents are not aware of the 13 year age limit and also may not be aware that their children are social networking which means that they are not talking to them about issues such as not giving out personal details, setting privacy settings etc and this is where problems can arise for a child who may be targeted by someone older. There are some school systems that work on the basis of communication between kids, teachers and parents, although many children would be reluctant I expect to freely social network in a space that is heavily populated/moderated by adults. You raise a difficult issue and it's something that is being debated within the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and at a European level.

DrTanyaByron Wed 24-Feb-10 13:20:18

Can I ask you all a question? Are you aware of the child internet safety issue becoming more thought about and talked about in recent years. And if so, why do you think this is?

LadyBlaBlah Wed 24-Feb-10 13:21:57

Thanks for the reply.

I'm afraid I only agree to a point. I don't agree that parents are solely responsible for what is accessible on-line. I have had the unfortunate experience to see the way porn is organised on the web, and currently parents have no hope in blocking access to porn FULLSTOP. That is unless every under-16 has no internet access at all, because there will always be a friend with the access (a bit like the dirty magazine found in the woods and then passed around analogy)

I think (and know)there is a lot of material that verges on illegal - and if it isn't then there is a huge debate there (at what point is gratuitous rape not a problem for us?).

If you have the government's ear, this is the main problem. Porn is a massive industry for the web and has huge influence but ultimately if we are talking about web safety - there is nothing parents can practically do about this - the argument starts much further up the chain.
It is

donnie Wed 24-Feb-10 13:23:29

I am certainly more aware of it; there are quite a few incidents I can recall over the last 2 or 3 years where terrible things have happened as a result of children being targetted by adults posing as someone else on networking sites.

I am also worried about the availability of Jihadist material and the grooming of vulnerable children into religious fanaticism.

DrTanyaByron Wed 24-Feb-10 13:24:52

whispywhisp, you make some really great points. I particularly like your comment about instant messaging and how this can cause real problems in friendship groups - this is particularly prevalent in primary schools. When we were kids, a cross word at the end of the day was usually forgotten the next day, however nowadays it gets inflated and blown out of all proportion by IM'ing. As parents we need to be aware of this and help our children understand how to communicate online especially helping them see how easy it is to be mean to someone when you're not face to face with them. I also think schools need to do assemblies about this. The organisation Beatbullying has their Cybermentoring scheme (I am president of this scheme) and they go into schools to help children think about and manage cyberbullying. Why don't you suggest this to your children's school?

LadyBlaBlah Wed 24-Feb-10 13:24:55

It is talked about more, because access is now so freely available. 3G has only been useable for 2 years max, same goes for wireless. And ditto for broadband - it brought about an internet that was fast and accessible - this has all been in the past 3-4 years in any grand scale.

whispywhisp Wed 24-Feb-10 13:26:31

Us parents are faced with a bit of a dilema situation with the social networking sites's the 'done thing' to be on these sites, chatting to friends after school, during the eldest DD is 11yrs old so right within that age group where its deemed 'uncool' to not be on these sites...and whilst I do restrict how long I allow her on the computer I do also want her to be 'in' with her mates, iykwim!

MagicMountain Wed 24-Feb-10 13:28:08

I think I am more aware but a lot of the discussion/media attention relates to a wider and sometimes not altogether helpful reponse to paedophiles/grooming etc. We need to protect children from these risks, of course, by giving them a sense of responsibility, ensuring these safeguards but I still think there needs to be a wider discussion about the very dark side of the web, about other forms of sexual exploitation and violence which are not solely related to child protection. It doesn't have to be about pornography and the old censorship debate necessarily but certainly about sexuality/objectification etc.

DrTanyaByron Wed 24-Feb-10 13:28:24

LadyBlahBlah, to continue our discussion, I agree that there needs to be robust debate in this area especially about the boundary between legal and illegal content. This is not an issue specific to child internet safety and it ties into a number of different obscenity laws. However, making this point is not a way of evading the important of tackling this issue and don't underestimate your own ability to influence debate either as an individual or as a collective voice.

BitOfFun Wed 24-Feb-10 13:30:28

Dr Tanya, how do you suggest we manage the ssue of older children and homework?

My daughter will be starting GCSEs soon, and there is a heavy reliance on typed homework and Internet research. It's just not realistic to expect her to work n a busy family area, and I want to get her her own laptop-do you have any advice?

mrspoppins Wed 24-Feb-10 13:30:38

re needing a place for children aged 8-12. I don't have a facebook account but have just signed up in a very basic way to put a suggestion in their suggestions section that they need to look into the problem of under 13yrs pretending they are older due to the peer pressure they experience once at secondary school when they are 11 to be able to communicate in this way.

I have asked them if a pre facebook site would be a viable project.

Why don't you get as many parents as you can to do the same...lots of voices shouting louder etc...etc...

DrTanyaByron Wed 24-Feb-10 13:31:44

As a general point it is interesting to me how quickly the discussion can turn to the darker side of the internet. I am not dismissing this for one minute and as a parent share those anxieties however I do feel that there are many constructive approaches we can take that will enable our children to become resilient and responsible online in the way that we do so in relation to how they live in the offline world. If we put our thinking in a place of risk and fear we are in danger of losing a proportionate and balanced approach to educating and empowering our children for their future citizenship in a digital world.

whispywhisp Wed 24-Feb-10 13:34:19

Cyber-bullying is a subject I feel particularly strong DD (11yo) moved schools a year ago due to being bullied at school, which all started with a text message from a friend...

The bullying escalated and ended up with Police involvement due to a boy in her year sexually harrassing her.

At their new school the Headteacher is currently putting a paper together about cyber-bullying...I last spoke to her about this only a few weeks ago because one of DD's friend's had put on MSN 'I am going to kill myself' due to some of her friends not talking to her on there....

I immediately notified the school and whilst this had nothing to do with my daughter I felt the school should be aware.

It takes one word, just ONE word to cause major problems between friends at school, which is precisely why I watch and listen when DD is on the laptop chatting to her friends. I have even told her 'don't type that, that could be misunderstood' but at just 11yrs old they can't see beyond the keyboard. I then explain why I don't think what she was about to type was suitable and she'll then reply..'oh yes, I can see why you told me not to do that, I never thought of it like that'.

We have been on the receiving end of bullying via computers/mobile phones etc's all too easy to type something that you wouldn't normally say/have the nerve to say face to face and its wrong, so very wrong.

DrTanyaByron Wed 24-Feb-10 13:35:40

BitOfFun, I think we have daughters of the same age, have you just gone through the process of helping her choose her options? Anyway, I think you are right to consider that she has her own laptop and a private space to work. There need to be clear rules within the family about usage and you need to build a level of trust so that you aren't constantly monitoring her. It would be useful to talk about reliability of source when she does her homework research - what this means is that she cross checks thoroughly sites that she takes information from and does not just rely on the big Wikis for example. Also help her understand plagiarism and how copying and pasting is, in effect, illegal - she is stealing someone else's work. Also most schools have a system where they can filter out essays written by young people using cheatnotes or essay purchasing sites. I wish her well in her GCSEs!

Mrsdoasyouwouldbedoneby Wed 24-Feb-10 13:35:43

I know that my son's school put great emphasis on internet safety. They ask children how they can be safe, about how they use the internet (with adult permission), the sort of sites they are allowed to visit, and why it is important not to stray from those that parents/teachers allow (because they might see things they would not like to see). They are not allowed to perform google searches at the moment (explained as being because sometimes searches can bring up the things we shouldn't see or might scare us), although the school has a blocking facility. If they DO accidentally hit on something that they find scary or upsets them (or they think is so), there is a button they can click which brings up a cover page (until an adult sorts it out). They are also reminded not share passwords etc. SO I think the school is taking a very sensible and positive approach.
At home we limit their internet access to the sites we are happy for them to use (and it won't open sites linked to either). As they get older we hope to do as you say and remind them of internet safety. I feel it IS more difficult with older children tho, particularly those who can get round the blocking methods.

MagicMountain Wed 24-Feb-10 13:36:08

But to follow on from that discussion with LadyBlahBlah, doesn't the fact that the technology is there and enables access to this material mean that we should use the debate about internet safety to kickstart another broader conversation. Protecting your 8 year old is one thing but what happens when the child learns to navigate out of controlled areas, when they are 10 or 13 and become more curious about those fenced off areas?

A Penthouse magazine that is passed around in the playground is one thing but this is a whole new ball game.

BitOfFun Wed 24-Feb-10 13:38:21

Thanks DrTanya- they do sound the same age (what a joy that can be grin)

DrTanyaByron Wed 24-Feb-10 13:39:06

Can any of you tell me whether you have been aware of the recent Government campaign around internet safety CLICK CLEVER CLICK SAFE with the ZIP IT, BLOCK IT, FLAG IT icons and the posters featuring Uri and Lexi?

whispywhisp Wed 24-Feb-10 13:40:08

Let's not forget parents are also somewhat to blame for our kids being on computers so much...we set examples only have to watch tv to see that most disagreements in relationships (who has dumped who, you're not the father to my child, i slept with so and so) are all done via the internet/texts....and it is all too easy for parents to enjoy some peace and quiet with their kids happily on their computers....what worries me is those kids who are sat in their rooms, with their own laptops, not being supervised...some of DD's friends are still on their laptops at almost midnight - why? Do the parents know? I know they're on them because DD and I share the same email address so I can see who is still on and sending messages to her...sharing the same email address ensures I have full view of what she is doing and who is contacting her...

Saltire Wed 24-Feb-10 13:40:23

I hadn't heard of that campaign, but have googled it now that you have mentioned it

whispywhisp Wed 24-Feb-10 13:40:46

Dr Tanya...13:39 - my reply is no.

MagicMountain Wed 24-Feb-10 13:41:06

Only in media reports.

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