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Screen Special

Cyber Safety – What Parents Should Look Out For.

With usage of social media platforms growing at a staggering rate, the job of a parent is becoming increasingly demanding both inside and outside the home. We asked Sorin Mustaca, Avira’s IT security expert and author of the free eBook “Improve your security”, for some advice on what parents should look out for when their children start using the Internet and social media websites (Facebook, Twitter etc.).

“The most challenging part in dealing with social media is the ability to know what is OK to share and what not. I always advise young people to share only what you would trust yourself to say loud in a room full of people. If you can’t do that, then don’t share it.”

However, many young people feel over-confident and still over-share and that’s what parents need to manage. Try to explain to them what is appropriate using the guidelines below with examples from their own lives such as friends or school etc.

Something that gets published remains there for a very long time, potentially forever. The Internet never forgets. If you post one place, it might end up elsewhere. Once online, you lose the control over what happens with your information.

 If you are sending a message to someone, would you tell them that face to face?

 Always read twice before clicking send.

If you wouldn’t say it directly to a person then don’t write it.

 What you might find funny, others may find outrageous, disturbing or offensive. If you want to make a joke about someone, think about how the other is going to receive it before you send.

Steps Parents Can Take to Protect Children in Cyberspace.

 Filter the websites children are allowed to visit based on their content. This includes many categories like sex, violence, games, social networks, etc. and functions like a blacklist of addresses. But remember no blacklist is perfect and new websites go live every second, making it possible for your child’s favourite site to avoid the list.

Control the time children are allowed to spend online.

If you think that your children require supervision, try using some services that integrate with the social networks and allow you to see if there is anything strange going on such as Avira’s free Social Network Protection which scans, analyses and alerts you to suspicious or concerning activity including:

 Contact from strangers  Cyberbullying dangers  Inappropriate content/language  Reputation risk

Screen Time.

What is ‘Screen Time’? Briefly, it’s an umbrella term used to describe the amount of time a child spends staring at a screen. Unfortunately not all screens are created equal, watching the television is not the same as playing a game on a tablet or home computer. Playing an interactive game on a games console (like Nintendo Wii Sports) is not the same as a playing on a tablet and reading on an e-reader is different again. So many screens, what is a parent to do?

Well first, let me give you the same advice that I would give to brand new parents – ignore all surveys. I’m not saying that surveys are wrong or valueless but as I discovered the hard way when I was a new mother every week there is a new survey and they are often contradictory. You would drive yourself insane if you attempted to adapt your behaviour to conform to surveys.

Recent surveys suggest that too much ‘Screen Time’ is responsible for both fatter and sadder children. This sounds very familiar. In the old days when the only screen, apart from the” silver” one, was the TV, it was blamed for each generation’s increased girth and emotional problems. The theory is sound – watching TV is a passive activity and obviously the less active a child, the less energy used. However, has

anyone ever suggested that reading a book, also a passive inactive pursuit, has led to higher BMIs?

Last year Public Health England published a survey suggesting that children who spend more time watching screens tend to have higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression. Fair enough but there are a myriad of factors that contribute to a child’s physical, mental or emotional well-being not just how much time they spend ‘on screen’.

You are the person who knows your child best and it’s up to you to decide how much time on the screen is too much. In my home ‘Screen Time’ refers to solely to electronic games. I have heard arguments that gaming is better for children than watching TV - because they are using their brain. Perhaps, but in our house gaming leaves my child over-excited so it’s limited to 20 minutes after homework and no electronic games are allowed in the hour before bedtime. Those are my rules, yours may be more rigorous, or less, only you know how your child responds to electronic stimulus. The other issue surrounding ‘screens’ is safety and all parents should acquaint themselves with what sites their children are visiting.

By Anne Marie Scanlon

For further information about cyber-protection

For help with setting up filters and managing online devices check ( You can learn a lot more about parenting in the cyber world in the free eBook “Improve Your Security” by Sorin Mustaca. Download your free copy here:

14 Primary Times SUMMER ISSUE

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