These days, children spend a lot of time online, and it can be a great platform for research, socialising and interactive learning.
Although the internet offers lots of benefits, it can also enable the likes of cyberbullying or inappropriate content, potentially endangering your children and, unfortunately, as parents or supervisors, keeping track of what goes on online is a difficult task.
It is firstly key to understand what exactly kids get up to online. This generally includes searching for content on Google, Yahoo and Bing, watching YouTube videos, social networking on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, joining and messaging on forums, playing games and chatting with people over the web using WhatsApp, Snapchat, online games, FaceTime or Skype.
We’ve put together a list of what we think are the top 9 ways to keep your kids safe online:
1. TALK TO YOUR KIDS!
Children spend an average of around 1.7 hours per day online (and some a lot more!), so it’s crucial that they are aware of the dangers of something that plays a large part in their day-to-day routine. If you talk to your kids in small doses, but often, you’ll ensure that the key messages sink in without them getting fed up and blocking out what you’re saying.
If your children are young enough, you can talk to your kids whilst using the internet with them so they can also pick up good habits from you and learn interactively about aspects of internet safety as things arise, such as password protection and avoiding clicking dodgy adverts.
2. INSTIL SOLID PRINCIPLES – ‘IF YOU WOULDN’T SAY IT IN PERSON, DON’T SAY IT ONLINE’
It’s no secret that kids and teenagers need to be more aware of the consequences of their online actions.
As a parent, it’s worth asking them questions that might provoke a sensible thought process, for example, “Would you go up to a stranger on the street and ask to be their friend?”. Children and teens might sometimes need reminding that the people and words behind the screen are still very much real.
For teenagers in particular, they need to be educated on the longevity of anything they post online or on social media. Once posted, and even if deleted, a digital footprint always remains. A lot of employers and universities now search for candidates on social media, so something that gets posted as a foolish teenager could come back to haunt them in the future.
3. KEEP YOUR NETWORK SECURED
Make sure that you have a comprehensive antivirus package that includes a full firewall and antispyware, amongst other security measures. Please be aware that ‘trial’ internet security packages rarely provide full protection, so you shouldn’t use these as your sole antivirus solution.
4. NEVER SAVE YOUR CARD DETAILS ON YOUR FAMILY COMPUTER
If you have a computer or device that is used by all of the family, it’s important to remember to explicitly NOT save your card details when online shopping.
Children can easily wind up purchasing all manner of things, potentially from illegitimate websites too, that save your details for malicious purposes.
5. TEACH YOUR KIDS TO LOG OUT OF COMPUTERS AND PROGRAMS
As soon as kids are finished with a program, website or computer they should log off or sign out – whether it’s at school, college or home.
This will prevent any peers, friends or siblings from accessing their private accounts and posting or messaging in their name without permission – even if it is a joke.
6. MAKE SURE YOU REMAIN UP TO DATE
The online world is constantly evolving, with new applications, websites, devices and programs being released everyday. It’s key that you read up on new trends and stay aware of what your children may be doing online and how it can impact them.
The ways kids can access the internet is also an ever-growing list, so make sure you keep tabs of all the devices that they may be using such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, games consoles and now even televisions.
7. TEACH THEM TO AVOID CLICKING UNKNOWN LINKS
It’s important that children don’t get tricked into clicking appealing advertisement links or on links sent through emails from senders they have never heard of.
To make this less of a risk, you can install adblocker extensions to your browser that should help to get rid of pop-ups, banners and redirects. A good how-to guide for setting up adblockers can be found at www.wikihow.com/block-internet-ads.
8. PURCHASED OR DOWNLOADED PARENTAL CONTROL SOFTWARE
There are many different brands and types of parental control software available for all devices.
Some of the typical features that these programs can have include:
- the ability to filter out generally inappropriate material
- set different profiles if you have different aged children using the same device
- block/unblock particular sites
- monitor your child’s online activity to see what websites were visited and the time spent online
- reporting on social media activity
- set time limits that will restrict internet use altogether, or at certain times and on certain websites i.e. limit social media websites to 30mins per night
A lot of browsers, mobile networks and gaming consoles have parental settings that you can log in to and control too. TV On Demand services also offer password-protected parental locks that will prevent your kids viewing anything unsuitable for their age.
9. TRY AND KEEP YOUR HOME COMPUTER IN A SHARED AND OPEN LOCATION
By doing this, you can physically monitor what your kids are getting up to online – correcting any unsuitable actions or activities before it may be too late.
This is also a good option if you would rather not use a parental monitoring software to keep tabs on the exacting details of what your child is getting up to online – it’s important to remember to instil some trust and responsibility into your kids if you can, and an open computer environment could be the solution.