We're the first generation of parents having to deal with this online world and the dangers are not obvious.
As a mum to a 15-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, I’m trying to understand this online, app-based, smartphone, tablet watching, virtual, 24/7, social world we are living in now.
I love that my children have access to information and education in the online space, but as a parent, the fear is very real of the horrors that they can access lurking under the surface only a few clicks away.
If I cross the road, my instinct is to hold my child’s hand, if we go anywhere in the car, I make sure they are wearing their seat belts.
I can see these dangers, but can’t see the dangers online.
Reading the tragic story of Molly Russell who took her own life after looking at self-harm pictures on Instagram is utterly heartbreaking and my heart goes out to her parents and family.
Listening to Molly’s dad Ian, talk about what happened is devastating.
Around 200 British schoolchildren take their own lives each year. We can’t say all these are down to social media, but it’s no surprise to me that the waiting times for the NHS's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services CAMHS are so long and services in school are at full capacity.
My husband Mark and I, are terrified at the things our teenager can potentially see and access online.
My head is spinning as a parent so imagine how children and teenagers feel thinking they have to have a certain online presence and the pressures that go along with that.
The online pressures children face in many areas of their life is clearly affecting their mental health.
We are the first generation of parents to try and understand this online world and the new way of life.
I think it’s the biggest gap there has ever been between us and our kids. We don’t have previous generations offering us parenting advice because it has never been like this before.
I loved playing games on my ZX Spectrum in the ’80s, on games like Chucky Egg and Manic Miner, but we are a world away from that now.
The little smartphone they hold in their hands can cause so much joy and also so much pain.
The way of life for teenagers now is very much a social one, but not in the way you or I would relate to. Their social world is online and all about the followers and likes.
Those little thumbs tapping away on their phone in a world where parents don't see most of it.
The tech giants, big social media and technology industry experts need to do more to protect our children, take more responsibility, and allow them to have a good online experience. They are not doing enough.
But as a parent, I know that I have to learn more about it myself.
I like to think I am quite tech-savvy, I have a website, a YouTube channel, social media accounts, I am on my phone quite a lot. I go to YouTube for tutorials on things I want to learn, I will post a picture on Instagram when we have had a nice day out, keep in touch with family and friends on Facebook, but I use all these in a different way to my daughter.
She uses Instagram as a group messaging service, with Snapchat being the main way she communicates with friends, but Facebook is seen as a parents place to be social.
I have worked with Internet Matters to record videos for parents on how to set parental controls while trying to learn more so I can help protect my own children.
I met Prince William at the launch of the Stop, Speak, Support campaign to tackle cyberbullying. This is a huge issue in so many lives.
I know I need to use my phone less and set an example to my children.
Keeping up to date with the latest apps and online crazes is so difficult.
As I sit here and look around my living room I see my eight-year-old son Jacob laughing out loud watching a YouTube video on his iPad.
My daughter is in her bedroom on her Xbox. She is talking to her friends on Xbox Live and playing games with them.
My husband is in the kitchen preparing dinner while listening to music and also looking at tweets on Twitter.
I am looking at Facebook on my phone and watching TV.
My children don’t watch TV very much anymore. It’s Netflix for Amber and YouTube for Jacob.
After homework has been done, this is a typical evening in our house.
Honestly, I don’t fully know what my children are getting up to while they’re online. I can only hope that by me talking to them about the dangers that it will help them have a good experience.
Amber is a big gamer, unlike many of her female friends, she loves gaming. She enjoys playing on her Xbox and chats with her friends through Xbox Live (an online gaming subscription service) while playing games with people around the world.
As with many children, she got caught up in the Fortnite craze, which has now gone out of favour with her and her friends.
We once had an incident when Amber was 12 years old.
My husband walked into her bedroom and heard a grown man’s voice talking to her in the headset she was wearing.
I heard my husband say ‘Who are you talking to?’
Amber’s reply was ‘Just a friend in Germany!’
A friend in Germany that sounded like a grown man talking to our 12-year-old girl. Terrifying!
This shocked both myself and Mark, and we didn’t realise that Xbox Live gives you access to people all over the world.
We cancelled her subscription and she didn’t have it for the next year.
Maybe we reacted too over-the-top, but we didn’t have a clue what to do at the time.
We all learned a lesson from that and it opened up our conversation to talk about the dangers online.
I always try and have chats with my kids about what they are doing.
I think the key is to allow them to talk to you and not just tell them off as they are more likely to respond well to that and not shut down and do things in secret.
We encourage them to tell us if they have seen something upsetting or if anyone has been unkind to them.
We have rules for both of them but it is very tricky to monitor their every move online.
Try to guide them to make sure things like the school badge on a blazer or jumper is not in a picture, that their location is turned off. These are simple things but wouldn’t be something we would even have thought about.
We would never, ever, take away our daughters' mobile phone, this is because it doesn’t solve the problem, it just puts up a barrier between you and your child.
Don’t forget, this is their world, and this is their ‘normal’.
It’s frustrating that up and down the country, schools have different policies on smartphone usage. Some allow them, other schools don’t. I will be very unpopular with my daughter for saying this, but I don’t think smartphones should be allowed in schools, primary or secondary.
My son, Jacob, does not have a phone… yet, even though he has started asking when he can have one!
And the age at which children start using a smartphone is around 10/11 years old but they are getting younger.
He loves to watch videos on YouTube, and even has his own YouTube channel which I manage for him. He loves recording videos. A few of his friends even say they want to be YouTubers when they grow up. Which is seen as a career by youngsters who watch their favourite vloggers making lots of money and having fun.
I will not stop him from wanting to record videos, because the creativity young people have online is fantastic and I can see the benefits of this.
But, as with most social media, you have to be thirteen years old to have an account which is why I record, edit, upload and monitor the videos.
We need to teach them online etiquette, they need to learn that if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, you don’t say it to them online.
And they need to be aware of anything that is posted online could be there forever and companies are delving into the social media history on future employees.
I sometimes feel I am muddling along as a parent and trying to do what’s right for my children.
I think that between children, parents, carers, teachers and tech giants, we all have a role to play in making our online experience a good one, but that can only happen if we all work together.
Where can we get help?
Parent-friendly social media platforms for kids: kudos.com, PlayKids Talk (appsdrop.com), popjam.com, kidzworld.com, gromsocial.com.
Pre-installed parental controls are available for most smartphones, tablets, laptops and game consoles – but you can download additional software and apps. See internetmatters.org for a guide.
Apps to keep your children healthy: Dungeon Runner: Fitness Quest, Habitz, Plant Nanny, Sworkit Kids and Zombies, Run!
For advice on social media use: internetmatters.org, NSPCC.org.uk/onlinesafety, net-aware.org.uk.
For more detail on PEGI ratings visit parentinfo.org
For advice on gaming: internetmatters.org.
Make young children aware their bodies belong to them. The NSPCC has a fantastic PANTS activity pack (search “pants” on nspcc.org.uk ) with fun games and a funny Pantosaurus song to teach them “what’s in your pants belongs only to you”.
Log on to selfharm.co.uk for more info and advice, or selfinjurysupport.org.uk , which has a text service for young women, and an any-age helpline. If you need more help visit your GP and ask for a referral to a therapist.
Why not create a family contract? You can find a template for a family contract at childnet.com. If you are feeling really bold, why not unplug and create “screen free” zones at home?