Life

Marie Louise McConville: Parents need to educate themselves about online safety

I'm just not ready for my kids entering the risky online world (Stock image)
Marie Louise McConville

To be fair, I don't remember anybody telling me it would be easy.

Looking back, my mum and dad must have hidden the stress of being parents really well because I don't remember either of them ever having a meltdown - at least, not in front of us.

Parenting these days is a very difficult business because life moves so fast and there's so many more risks now, including the internet and social media.

Up until now online safety hasn't really been an issue for us because the kids are so young.

However, in recent times, Abbie has mentioned wanting to have her own mobile phone but at just seven-years-old, she is far too young.

I already feel guilty saying that because I know some of her friends already have their own phones but Darren and I have decided that when she begins big school will be time enough.

The thing is, phones are not just for talking these days, they open up a worrying world of social media and leave children open to abuse and bullying and I want to try to avoid that at all costs.

There have also been murmurings from them both about game consoles.

Currently, they don't have any consoles but I know the time is coming when that will change and it is something that worries me immensely, because it's not just about the game playing these days, is it?

Like phones, they are all about playing other people, hooking up online with other gamers and conversing with them and while that all sounds like fun, can we ever be sure who our children are actually speaking to?

And what happens when these faceless gamers start asking them more personal questions and pushing them to do certain things, the thought of it all just makes me feel sick.

This week, the PSNI revealed that reports of online child sexual abuse crimes have jumped by more than 80 per cent during the past three years.

I thought this was just shocking.

In the past year alone, there have been 308 reports compared to just 178 in the 12 months between 2016 and 2017.

These offences include sexual assault, rape, or sexual communication with a child where any element of the offence was committed online.

I was just horrified by what I was reading and all at once, I just wanted to wrap my kids up and keep them hidden away from the risks of the modern world.

As Internet Safety Day took place this week, the PSNI released a video to all schools, highlighting the potential dangers for their children online.

The video encourages parents to be more aware of their child's online activities and in particular, who they are speaking to and the types of games they are playing.

I think it's imperative that us parents follow any and all guidance available.

I'm just not sure if I'm ready for my kids to enter the worrisome world wide web.

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Grease fans got some perfectly pink news this week with the announcement that Paramount+ is to release a new Grease prequel.

The streaming network has revealed plans for a new 10-episode original musical series called Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies.

Set in the four years prior to the plot of the hit 1978 movie musical, the prequel will follow the origin story of film's most iconic fifties girl gang.

Making the announcement, Paramount said the show would "introduce an incredible cast of young stars in the making and electrifying musical numbers you will fall in love with".

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Spring is on the horizon and that can only mean one thing - Celebrity Bake-Off is coming.

Fans of The Great British Bake-Off finally learned this week who will be entering the famous white tent to try their hand at all things sweet in the 2022 Stand Up To Cancer edition of the show.

And I'm delighted because one of them is my favourite TV actor, Ben Miller, who formerly starred in the brilliant Death In Paradise,

I'm looking forward to seeing him tackle the Signature, the Technical and the Showstopper challenge in a bid to be crowned Star Baker.

Ben will be joined by a great line-up of stars including Katherine Kelly, Mo Farah, Ellie Goulding, and Strictly's Motsi Mabuse.

The list of celebrity participants also includes Emma Willis, The Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison and Laura Whitmore.

And in a strange turn of events, GBBO host, Matt Lucas will also been baking up a storm after he was forced to stand in when a contestant had to pull out.

Speaking about the experience, the comedian said: "I can't tell you how happy I was that my humiliation was caught on camera".

The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer airs later this spring.

COMPETITION WINNERS

The winners of The Tower competition are Noreen Graham, from Portglenone, Katharine McGuckin, from Cookstown, and Erin Mulligan, from Belfast

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