Child Protection on the Internet

When you think about this subject it’s easy to think only of the headline grabbing stories that a Oprah, Geraldo or Jeremy Kyle would be drawn to.  We’ve all heard about “child grooming”.  It’s a problem because social media is all about meeting new people.  An even worse problem is cyber-bullying.  20% are bullied by text/SMS.  I’ve seen a crazy stat that says 77% of kids have been bullied online.  30% of US kids in grades 6 to 10 say they bully online.  There’s lots more of that here.

I’ve briefly tried to play online games with a headset.  I’m no sensitive daisy nor am I politically correct (as you’ll soon see if you keep reading) but I was stunned by the level of racism from the other players.  It was pretty sickening.  Between that and me sucking at the games I had enough.

Last October I attended the UK & Ireland MVP mini-summit in the Microsoft UK office in Reading.  MS UK had started running a campaign in schools and parental organisations to educate parents on how to protect their children on the Internet.  They talked about the impact and played a couple of videos.  The videos really brought home the subject matter.

I don’t have any kids.  If you know me well, then you know I prefer the Spartan approach to parenting: send them away to somewhere remote and isolated, and only let them into society at 18 years old if they are socially acceptable.  Airplanes, restaurants, closed spaces, open spaces, etc, should all be kid free zones where high pitched squealing is punishable using a chain, a block of concrete and a river.

Now there’s the political incorrectness!

MS UK did the session to get feedback from the local MVP’s.  It was a good idea because lots of the parents got involved.  I learned something interesting, e.g. “if I POS type this” or “if I ty9pe this” when chatting to you on IM then you’d know a parent or teacher was standing over my shoulder and watching my screen.  POS = 9 = Parent Over Shoulder.

Microsoft UK started going out to schools to talk to kids and parents about Internet Safety.  They also recruited people like MVP’s to get involved in their communities.  It’s way more than just some Windows sale.  The Internet is much more than just Microsoft software and Microsoft gets that message across.  They show how to use the free Live software on your PC, e.g. to restrict access to things or to make reporting things to authorities easier.

Microsoft UK has a page full of useful information here.  I’d say you’ll probably be able to get them or a representative to visit if you contact them.  MS UK was taking this subject very seriously.  Microsoft Ireland did things in a visibly smaller way with an Internet Safety Day.  They might be doing something under the radar; I don’t have kids (phew) so I wouldn’t know if there’s a school tour.  There appears to have been something done in Northern Ireland; probably done in cooperation with MS UK (there’s a grey area between MS Ireland and MS UK for the North because of accessibility and the border).  Barnardos (Irish child protection charity) also has a page on the subject.

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