Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Keeping your children safe online

Encouraging our children to be independent is one of our primary tasks as parents and there is no escaping the fact that the internet is part and parcel of how the children and young people of today communicate and connect with each other. However, increasing use of the internet does not come without its pitfalls. It's our job to keep our children safe. When they're online we need to ensure they get the most out of the tools that are available to them while also helping prevent any negative impact on their lives.

Online safety is a common concern among parents, this article from Psychology Today outlines  the top 5 tips for keeping online safety – it’s a good starting point but there is more that we can do as parents without it taking too much time and effort.

The best way to approach online safety is through having a series of conversations with your kids. The purpose of these talks is to learn from each other and help your kids to understand the internet – and its potential dangers – better, from your perspective as a parent. Take some time to scope out what you’re going to say beforehand and try and cover the following areas:

  1. Internet safety 101 is to teach your children that they should not share identifying information such as their name, location, age or school and help them make sure that their user names are not identifying. Help them understand the importance of not sharing photographs and the permanence of any online activity.
  2. Help your children understand the potential online dangers. There’s no need to scare them, but they do have to be aware that not everyone is who they seem online. Reassure them that you are a safe haven and they will not be in trouble even if they tell you something that you don’t approve of. Keep the lines of communication open.
  3. Set the expectation from the outset that you must know all your children’s passwords. Reserve the right to check their texts, browser history and social media accounts periodically or whenever you feel that something is up. It’s easier to set this rule upfront than try and establish this practice some time later.
  4. Night-time is for sleeping so make the bedrooms a no device zone overnight. Have your kids return their phones and devices to a common area before they retire for the night. This helps to instil healthy sleeping habits and also makes sure that they are not exposed to any unnecessary dangers while you are not around to monitor the situation.

We’ve drafted up seven golden rules for staying safe online for you to share with your children – discuss them and make them your own…

  1. Immediately tell your parents or another adult you can trust if you feel uncomfortable or worried while you’re online. 
  2. Be prepared to keep your computer in a common area of the house, use your headphones if necessary but try not to hide away from everyone else while you are on your devices.
  3. Let your parents know where you go online, just as you would in real life. Sit down with them and show them the sites you like, this will help them understand what you are doing when you have your screen time.
  4. Never ever – ever - share any personal details with anyone online – this includes things like your full name, your address or home town or school, your date of birth and your telephone numbers.
  5. Realise that an ‘online friend’ that you don’t know in real life is a stranger. We don’t like that it happens but not everyone is who they say they are. It’s fine to have friends but accept that you’ll never really know them.
  6. Remember never to share passwords with anyone, no matter how many times they ask. Some of your family accounts might be linked to your parent’s bank accounts so don’t tell anyone.
  7. Understand that your parents need to check your email and social networking lists from time to time – it’s not to check up on you, but to make sure you’re safe.

And while we’re on the subject of keeping our kids safe online, there are some things we can do as parents to make sure that we’re setting a good example:

  • When responding to posts and comments, only use those words that you would use when responding face to face. The internet is a permanent depository, don’t use words that can come back to bite you later – and remember not to respond to nasty or rude comments made by others, and they’re not worth it so rise above it.
  • Review all your user names and logins to make sure that they can’t be misinterpreted or have double meanings. Lots of words which were fine when we were younger could now be construed as suggestive or flirty, so just double check.
  • Spend time together with your kids online together. Learn and explore together – the internet is part and parcel of their childhood so showing an interest and getting to understand more about how it all works and why our kids are so engaged with it will also help to strengthen your relationship too.

You’ll find lots of additional resources to help you navigate your way round this tricky subject:

Resource about online safety on th NSPCC's website >

Resources on Childnet's website >

Resources on the BBC website >

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

How to be happy with what you have

It’s an old adage that money can’t buy you happiness, but how true is this? Money worries are often cited as one of the major driving factors in couples experiencing relationship difficulties, however an article in the Financial Times found that the ‘happiest’ occupations were florists and gardeners – hardly the highest paid of professions.

We all need a certain amount of money to meet our basic needs, but the truth is that money above and beyond this amount doesn’t necessarily make us happier. Often, it is the sad fact that we compare ourselves to other people and their standards of living that makes us dissatisfied with what we have. This is not helpful, as we all have different levels of aspiration, ability and outgoings.

If we're working in a low-paid job or surviving on benefits, the challenge of paying bills and putting food on the table is enough to cause significant stress. In this case, an increase in income would reduce the stress, which would leave you feeling happier. Getting a better paid job could mean you were able to afford to buy nicer things, but that in itself wouldn’t necessarily make you any happier. Plus, we’ve got to remember that as income increases, so too do our outgoings which might only serve to add to the stress of maintaining your lifestyle. It’s a double-edged sword.

When we talk about happiness, often we're really talking about pleasure. We can ‘buy’ lots of activities that cause us momentary pleasure – but what impact do they really have on our underlying happiness and sense of wellbeing? True happiness comes from those things we cannot buy: helping others, the relationships we build with family and friends, having a job that gives us a sense of achievement and purpose.

We’ve developed some ideas to help you live within your means and manage your money without feeling as though you're missing out on the small pleasures in life that will contribute towards your happiness.

Rethink your personal reward systems

Often we incentivise our performance or progress with treats, e.g. a shopping spree when we’ve completed a difficult task at work; a meal out for good behaviour at school; a trip to the hairdresser after a tough week. Often, these treats become more frequent than we realise and this can have an impact on our finances. There are two ways of addressing this: reduce the frequency of these rewards, or swap out the rewards that cost money for those experiences which are free – like a long bath or some family time together.

Change your finance focus

Often when faced with financial stresses, we talk about the need to ‘cut back’ or ‘trim the budget’. This automatically puts us in the mindset that we are losing something or missing out on things that we had before. We’re challenging you to change your focus and look at your finances from the bottom up. Take some time to work out a budget, starting from a zero base. Think about what you really need – like a place to live, food to eat, heating - and those items that are non-essential, like mobile phones and TV subscriptions. By looking at things differently, we can start to appreciate the real difference between want and need.

Be thankful

Whatever our income, there are often things we can be thankful for, even though they can sometimes be forgotten in our aspirations for ‘more’. Recognising and giving thanks for every expense you can already afford is a habit that should extend far beyond your monthly budgeting. And recognising the enormous value of everything you already enjoy – experiences, relationships, opportunities – can go a long way in combating feelings of limitation, even when your means are limited.

If you’re interested in finding out more about happiness and what we can do to be happier, why not read our previous blog posts: