Parents must have frequent and open conversations with their children about their online behaviour

Online safety champion and founder of Gooseberry Planet calls for greater communication
When it comes to online activity, parents are particularly concerned about their children unknowingly interacting with predators, closely followed by sharing inappropriate information or images with others – the two founding reasons why Hampshire mum Stella James, the driving force behind Gooseberry Planet, set about developing the engaging App designed to help 4‑16 year olds to learn through safe digital gaming.
“There is no substitute to open and regular conversations and interaction with your children to help educate them about how to stay safe online,” explains Stella James, “But sometimes we need a little help in identifying the facts and finding the best way to approach the subject, which is where the parent version of our Gooseberry Planet App is proving to be a real winner. Building trust between parents and children about online use is important but it is a fine line between being a caring parent and a controlling one.”
It’s also important to remember the five core ‘cyber parenting’ tips that can help achieve online safety.
Connect: Frequently chat with your children about the online risks, and make sure the communication lines are open. Also stay knowledgeable about the newest and latest social networks and how they work if your kids are on them.
Password Rules: Explain the dangers of sharing online passwords but also ensure that as a parent you have access to passwords, sites and your children’s devices so you can periodically check what’s being said and done. Also regularly check the privacy settings.
Apps: Parents should know which ones your children are using and ensure that they have come via a reputable app stores. They also need to examine the privacy disclosures and settings and if they share locations, be sure that only the right people have access to that location information.
Games: Simply checking the age rating is not enough – We’ve all heard about kids racking up massive online “in game” purchases (which you’ll want to avoid) but certain games also allow chat with other players. So be sure your kids are careful about the information they disclose.
Browser settings: It goes without saying that controlling what your children can assess via the internet needs managing and with smartphones becoming ever more powerful more information can be easily accessed. You may have agreed to a data download bundle – but do you know what content are they accessing – regularly ask what they’ve been searching for?
“Whilst we are acutely aware of identity theft, bullying, sexting, grooming and many other dangers are rife on the internet but worryingly many parents and carers are still not in tune with the current dangers, how people are exploiting software or how to best protect family and friends. You cannot always be looking over their shoulder and it’s not just about monitoring what they do; rather helping children learn how to identify the dangers for themselves and so avoid them.  Taking simple steps like periodically checking the privacy setting on Facebook is so important but all too often overlooked. We wouldn’t let a child play near water if they didn’t understand the dangers but we are all too happy to let them pick up a digital device and often and quite easily interact with total strangers.”
And Stella concludes: “Don’t be that uninvolved parent whose child gets into potential trouble using the internet. Regular communication is key when it comes to teaching them about online safety, Gooseberry Planet lets children learn in a fun and safe way while at the same time develop their own judgment skills about keeping safe online – which  is far better than simply blocking their use altogether.”
Back in late 2013 Stella couldn’t find any engaging tools her kids would want to use to learn about online safety so started to visualise and developGooseberry Planet  which in now going down a storm with kids, parents and teachers alike. The engaging budget app for PCs, tablets and smartphones, informs 9‑14 year olds about online dangers and teaches them to recognise the risks and so keep themselves safe. Available for download in four instructive and interactive tiers it also includes a parent app about how best to develop discussions and guide their child about remaining safe online.

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