Zoom is a fantastic way for everyone to stay in touch during these difficulties times, especially as it is easy to sign up and it is free to hold a live meeting. It also allows several people to be within the same live chat, meaning that friends and families can have gatherings and interact, with some even playing games and quizzes!
However, as with all online platforms it does not come without a variety of risks, each of which must be considered and appropriate actions need to be taken to safeguard children and minimise risk.
Zoom facilitates private chat rooms, where the user chooses their own name, immediately allowing others to use a false identity. Whilst your child can use this to protect themselves, it also means they do not always know exactly who they are talking to.
Whilst most meetings involve live videos so you can see each other's face, there is also the option to remove the video, instead displaying the chosen username only and concealing the person's real identity. This again presents an opportunity for people to disguise who they are.
The potential for children being groomed is always a very real risk and possibility when using any online platform. Conversations should be held with children about who they are talking to online and the importance of not sharing personal information or data.
A good safety feature is the ability to use virtual or custom backgrounds which helps to conceal details about your home that could be used by a perpetrator to identify where you live. It is good practice to monitor Zoom meetings where possible, or regularly drop in to ensure that the person you child is communicating with is appropriate.
Children should also be reminded of the risks associated with live streaming. Live streaming can often be unrehearsed, and children can be encouraged to do things 'in the moment' that they would not normally do, without careful consideration first.
There is also potential for recordings to be made, which then may be shared through other social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Tick Tock etc. Once a video is shared once, it is very difficult to stop the spread, the extent of which is often unknown as videos are often shared widely across the internet without consent or your authorisation.
Live meetings on Zoom are also unmoderated which means that children can be exposed to inappropriate content without warning. Meetings can also be hacked by unauthorised people joining a meeting, broadcasting explicit material.
The internet and new apps can be dangerous if not used with caution. However with the right settings, supervision and conversations with children about keeping themselves safe online, it can also be pretty awesome too. Please read through the guide from National Online Safety for further information, which can be found on our safeguarding page.