Unsupervised access to devices means more kids are being exposed to violent or pornographic content. (Pic: iStock)
Unsupervised access to devices means more kids are being exposed to violent or pornographic content. (Pic: iStock)

How I’m outwitting predators lurking online

I'M scared.

I hate to admit it, but I am.

It is scary being a parent in the technological age - knowing that with one simple swipe your children could be exposed to material they can never unsee. That there are cyber predators out there trying to groom or track your children down.

It is scary to know that while you may be keeping your own children safe with the right approaches to technology and usage, they could be attending school or playgroup with a child who is not and may be exposed to untoward behaviours as a result.

My story today about the hidden material in kids programming online and the damage it is causing is a reality check for how young our children are now being exposed to adult material.

It is scary. But it also is time we face up to what is happening.

One in 5 Australian children under the age of eight have viewed pornography online this year.

This jumps to almost a third of children aged 9-12.

I have a four-year-old daughter in preschool and frankly the thought of her being exposed to other children engaging in sexual acts as a result of pornography or violence they have seen online is horrifying.

Children are being exposed to violence and pornography through digital devices. (Pic: iStock)
Children are being exposed to violence and pornography through digital devices. (Pic: iStock)

We have good digital literacy in our household and our four-year-old doesn't have access to devices on her own.

But I don't know if every other child in her school has parents with the same values.

Technology is going to be a part of our children's lives. They are growing up in a digital world and there will be ways they will use technology in the future that we haven't even dreamt of.

They need to be good digital citizens - but they also need to be safe.

Children are learning how to use devices before they can even talk properly. They are swiping and reaching for phones and tablets as second nature.

And I think it has to stop.

We need to wake up as parents and limit our kids screen time. We also need to sever our digital obsessions and role model appropriately for our children.

If they are seeing us use our devices constantly then of course they will want to mirror that behaviour.

Children have mirror neurons in their brains that encourage them to do just that.

Social media companies of course need to do more to ensure their platforms are safe, but ultimately the responsibility for our children lies with us as parents.

And maybe it's time we consider banning devices for children under a certain age.

Susan McLean - the Cyber Cop - said to me this week: "If you want to keep your children 100 per cent safe watching content, put on a DVD. Don't stream things through the internet."

And I think she may have a point.

Lanai Scarr is a senior News Corp writer.

@pollietracker



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