Loose Women’s Nadia and Kaye (plus international security expert Will) have written an important book about keeping kids safe online. To kick off Daddilife’s E-Safety Month, we talked to them about their own experiences, and why all parents need to get internet savvy...
It was somewhat of a surprise to find two of the stars of daytime chat show Loose Women fronting Parent Alert, an important book on a big topic. Subtitled ‘How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online’, Parent Alert aims to unpick the mysteries and dangers of the online world for anxious parents, giving us the tools we need to help make the internet a positive experience for our children.
But really, we shouldn’t be surprised. Nadia Sawalha and Kaye Adams are parents themselves, and as Loose Women panelists are used to tackling the issues that concern us all. For many parents, few subjects come bigger right now than the dangers our children face when they post on Instagram, open WhatsApp, or start trawling the world wide web.
This book is for anyone that has been relying on their nine year old to tell them how to navigate the shark infested waters of the online world. Hands up … I was one of those people! It’s for parents that want to get informed on how best to support their children when it comes to all things digital. It’s not for the fainthearted though as there are plenty of ‘what the hell’ dangers that Kaye and I didn’t even know were out there.
Kaye agrees, adding that the two see the book as a “go-to-Bible” on what you should (and shouldn’t) be worried about and how to fix problems.”
With that in mind Parent Alert combines the personal experiences of Nadia and Kaye with a core of rock-solid technological know-how provided by Will Geddes, a Specialist Security expert with 25 years of experience. Will is not a parent, but has worked with adults, parents and children at the sharp end of an internet crisis. He says:
“I have managed many cases, incidents and crises for the parents of children who have come unstuck online or ventured into territories they really ought not to have - and for adults who have done the same. To be frank, there’s little that shocks me now. But I also know that there is always a solution and I endeavour to navigate them towards it.”
Nadia and Kaye were motivated to write the book from the sort of fears that all parents will recognise. Kaye talks about her eldest daughter’s obsession with her phone, and her own panic at stories of cyberbullying and grooming that can sometimes seem like an almost daily occurrence.
“I know she will have seen sexual images far more graphic than I would have seen at her age which means I need to have those conversations with her,” she says. “I’d also be concerned that she could be persuaded to send sexual images of herself which could have huge consequences for her. Beyond that, the unrelenting emphasis on physical appearance is a real concern.”
All three of Parent Alert’s authors - but particularly Nadia and Kaye - have found the process of producing the book empowering, and also shockingly instructive. Parent Alert has been a voyage into the depths of their own ignorance.
“I shudder at the thought of just how ignorant I was,” says Nadia. “And it was ME and no one else that put that very expensive piece of kit in their hands with no real knowledge of the dangers. Cringe.”
Kaye admits that she was one of those parents who joked about how useless they were with technology, but let their kids loose on it anyway:
I confess I got my then 13 year old to set up the parental controls on my 9 year old’s tablet. On reflection, that was a terrible cop out. Now, having benefited from the ‘wisdom of Will’, I feel much more able to take control of the situation.
The wisdom of Will
Nadia and Kaye’s experiences put e-safety in a human context. We’ve all had (or will have) the same concerns. We all worry that we don’t know enough to proactively protect our children. Most would agree with Kaye that we are perhaps becoming dinosaurs too quickly for our liking, so feign disinterest or jokey ignorance of the technology our children take for granted. And that, perhaps, is the core of the issue:
“But, whilst our children might be able to click and share more quickly than we ever will, they still don’t have the emotional maturity to deal with some of the pressures technology can bring to bear on them and that’s where we need to step in,” says Kaye.
So what is the “wisdom of Will”? What can all of us take from Parent Alert and apply to our own parenting, helping to keep our own kids safe online? First off, the authors are keen to point out that demonising online life (or worse, banning it from our children’s lives) is not a sensible option.
“My children are better informed, more switched on and part of a global community,” says Nadia. “They bring me content on a daily basis that teaches and informs me. I love that they have so much at the end of their fingertips. BUT - for too long I had my head buried in the sand. I feel much more confident that I can help keep them safe as they enjoy all the fruits of the online world.”
Will agrees that the internet has so much to offer - there’s no turning back the tide - but unchartered waters should always be navigated with care.
We need to accept that the internet and a digital life is going to play a huge and critical part of children’s lives and increasingly so. The internet and what it has to offer is incredible, from learning new languages, understanding cultures, education, and communication - the list is too long to list. Where the book can hopefully assist parents and children alike, is in establishing ‘best practice’ for their digital lives and a tool to help crisis manage situations if or when it all goes wrong.
Will continues - “We just need to remember that this is still a somewhat unchartered world and as much as we can hope social media and websites will provide their services responsibly, we have to accept that we are personally responsible for what we do, how we do it and the steps we take.”
Alert parenting - three tips to help your kids stay safe online
We asked each of the authors for their three key e-safety tips, and in their own words:
Parent Alert: How To Keep Your Kids Safe Online is published this month by DK.
To kick off Daddilife’s E-Safety Month we’ve got FIVE copies of Parent Alert to give away. For a chance to win your copy, simply click and fill in your details in the Rafflecopter giveaway below.
Look out for more important e-safety features from the personal e-safety experiences from dads on Daddilife in the coming weeks.
Disclosure: This article and DaddiLife E-Safety Month is a collaboration with DK books.