All I want for Christmas is… online

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting ipads, please put a bitcoin in the live-streamed hat… It isn’t long until schools can pack up for a couple of weeks (although it will feel like you’ve never left when you return in January). Here’s our whistlestop tour of how you might be able to support parents before and after Christmas.

Let’s cut to the chase and get the negatives out of the way. Things can go wrong, in all kinds of areas, so it’s good to know where to go for support. If you share two links with parents in a pre-Christmas newsletter (or any other time), you might want to share and The first is an overview of all the links we have collated that can support parents with online safety and safeguarding, on all the range of issues I will cover here; the second has all the major helplines, hotlines and advice lines – you don’t need to wait until things go wrong.

The Ofcom Children and Parents Media report came out at the end of November; as usual it contains many revealing statistics. For example, mobile phone ownership – not just use – has more than doubled among 5-7 year olds. And 96% of all children between 5 and 15 now have access to the internet at home. Yet 69% of parents do not use the baked-in parental controls and filters.

It’s a fair assumption that Christmas won’t lead to a drop in either of those numbers. So what better time to remind parents that there is plenty of support for them regarding settings. Two top tips from our parent resource collection are Internet Matters for how to turn on parental controls for your home broadband with any of the big providers, and call the NSPCC / O2 Parent Helpline on 0808 800 5002 for help setting up new mobile devices.

It’s not just about controlling, blocking and filtering, of course. Knowing what your child is doing online and offline is invaluable, and there are tools to help you with that. At we have selected guides to the apps young people use, to help you tell your CoD from your Roblox. As ever, it’s more about what they are doing, not where. And whilst the guides will help with that, the best way to find out is through conversation. Easier said than done? The Internet Matters tablet app will help with that, guiding parents through  the right questions to ask.

Christmas is a great time for guilt trips about excesses, but it’s not just eating or drinking but also screen time that often tops the list of parenting worries. So maybe a good time to remind parents that screen time isn’t the same as screen time. Any ‘official’ limits are fairly arbitrary in fact as there are so many factors that define what’s good and what’s bad. If you want to delve into all the research, start with Professor Sonia Livingstone’s work here. But for a great overview to share with parents, use this flyer: “It’s time to end the screen time scare”. And back that up with the Children’s Commissioner’s new idea of a Digital 5-A-Day – that’s your Boxing Day hike over the moors justified!

All of that, and I haven’t even mentioned livestreaming, gaming, sexting and all the other justified worries that parents and schools might be dealing with over the festive period and next year. Click on the links to find out more on those topics, and remember if it’s all getting too much, there is help for school staff too – get in touch with the Professionals Online Safety Helpline from the Safer Internet Centre for help and advice on specific cases too.

Merry Christmas – I won’t be sending you a card; I’m using an app this year…

UPDATE 11/12/17 – Now head over to this blog post from the Kent CC team for more useful links and a letter to send home to parents with advice on new tech they might buy for their children for Christmas.

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