Friend your child on Facebook: MP says parents should monitor children online

A Conservative MP has called for parents to become more active in preserving the online safety of their children, by checking up on activity and monitoring them on social networks.

Claire Perry, the MP for Devizes who was made the government’s adviser on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood in December, says parents have an obligation to keep tabs on how the Internet is used in their home and should even connect directly via social media accounts to keep a close eye on what they do.

"I'm not in any way suggesting that we should be like the diary-reading parent from hell,” Perry told the BBC’s Newsbeat. "But I think parents do have a responsibility, particularly with younger children, to potentially discuss these things with their kids and make sure they're friends with them on Facebook."

The safety of children online has already been in the news this week, after security firm ESET released a report stating that half of nine to 16 year olds receive no formal Internet security education – a problem that is exacerbated by parents not offering advice as many believe their children’s understanding of the web is better than theirs.

"Parents seem to feel very helpless about this. I think that's a concern,” said Perry. “We don't feel helpless about teaching our kids about road safety or trying to get them to eat healthily. Somehow the technology has terrified us.

"Parents are paying for these mobile contracts. We've given the kids this power and this responsibility for free. I think we have a responsibility to get involved."

"This is an uncomfortable area for people to talk about," she admitted. "I've been campaigning for more family-friendly access to the Internet, so that inappropriate material - whether it's hardcore porn or pro-anorexia sites or pro-suicide sites - are filtered in the home.”

Image Credit: Flickr (Cyber Security at the Ministry of Defence)