Tom Bennett o2 Guru

o2 Guru Penrith

Keeping Kids Safe from Cyber Threats

Children are the future of our planet. The skills they learn, the words they hear, and the choices they make, will shape the world, for generations to come. This is why it’s so important that we take the time now to protect them, whilst still allowing them the freedom they deserve, to live their lives to the fullest.

Here at O2 we recognise our responsibility to help you help them, and that’s why we’ve partnered with some amazing companies to safeguard our young stars online, as well as helping you understand the importance of staying safe online yourself.

Qustodio is an amazing service which allows you to keep a watchful eye on your child as they’re browsing the web, playing games, and messaging their ‘friends’. It gives you extensive access to the digital lives your children are living, whilst not making them feel like you’re breathing down their necks. It’s the hand to hold, when they’re too embarrassed to hold your hand.

As part of Qustodio, you get access to heaps of features, so you can tailor your child’s mobile and tablet usage, to exactly what you’re comfortable with. From Smart Web Filters that block any inappropriate content they may stumble across, to time controls for each app, allowing you to set a certain amount of time they can use each app on a daily basis. If they’re using an android device, you can even keep track of their messages and phone calls, so that you don’t have to worry about any malicious targeting from strangers.

It’s no secret that cyber-bullying is rife at the moment, particularly among children and young teenagers. Many feel like they can hide behind a keyboard, and that the things they type on a message board, or comment on a picture, don’t have any effect on the individual they’re aimed at. We of course know that this is not the case. The old ‘sticks and stones’ is just not accurate anymore, and bullies have found ways of causing serious, long-term emotional stress, all from behind a screen.

To us, this isn’t acceptable, and so we’re trying to put a stop to it, while helping you do the same. Qustodio’s advanced Facebook monitoring and call blocking, gives you the tools to see a problem, and nip it in the bud before it escalates beyond your control.

Understanding where the risks lie

Part of keeping your child safe online, is first understanding where the risks lie. The internet can be a frightening place, and it’s often hard to differentiate between harmless, PG fun, and a much more sinister site. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, are well established sites, so can often be seen as a ‘safe haven’. We often hear “But they’re only talking to their friends, right…?” True, they may be messaging a ‘Joe Bloggs’, but how can you really be sure that Joe is who he says he is?

You have to be wary with Social profiles. Look for recent posts, see if they’ve uploaded any photos recently with mutual friends, see if they’re connecting with other family members such as parents and cousins, even try and encourage a video call; if they’re friends, why would they mind seeing each other online? These are all things you should be looking out for when your children are communicating online, and all things that Qustodio can help you with.

There are also many lesser-known applications you should be watching out for. They can be seen as harmless fun, but can be very addictive, leading to hours on end of screen-time. Also, many of these apps have ‘comment’ sections, or message boards which can become malicious very quickly.

Tik Tok is a video sharing app, where people upload short videos of themselves lip-syncing to a piece of music/ catchphrase from a movie. This is great fun, and is extremely popular with over 100 million downloads on the Google Play Store alone.

However, this is unfiltered, and gives the entire world access to your child’s activity. Posts are shared publicly, for anybody in the world to view. Children as young as 13 are gaining millions of followers across the planet, and it goes without saying that at least a small proportion of those followers are there to give nasty, hateful abuse to your child, every single day.

At the end of the day, kids are just trying to have fun. They’re growing up in a generation that has the entire world on a 6” display. They’re going to explore what the web has to offer, and they’re going to push the boundaries of what we thought was possible online. We’re not here to try and discourage that, I for one love watching families come in for Guru appointments in-store, where the child is showing us things their parents could never even dream of understanding.

The point is, we’re here to help, and we’re trying to make it just a little bit easier for you. With the Qustodio service being completely free to O2 customers, we’re putting you in control, and whatever questions you have about your child’s online safety, or if you just want a helping hand getting started, we have hundreds of Gurus like myself all around the country. Completely free, any time, any network. Just head to O2.co.uk or pop-in to your local O2 store.

O2 and NSPCC want to help your family enjoy the best of the digital world safely and confidently. To help, we’ve put lots of useful information on our website. Or if you would prefer to speak to someone, call our online safety advice helpline, visit o2.co.uk/nspcc or call 0808 800 5002. Lines are open from 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm on weekends and will be free of charge.

The NSPCC helpline is open 24 hours a day, ready to give support and advice to any adult who’s worried about a child. Call 0800 800 5000, visit nspcc.org.uk/help, email help@nspcc.org.uk