Child Internet Safety Tips for Parents
Did you know that children are now spending an average of just over 2 hours on the internet each day?
Children are born watching us use the internet for everything from making phone calls, checking the weather, shopping, watching videos, playing games and doing our internet banking, among other things. Is it any wonder small children quickly become intrigued by our multiple devices that light up and consume much of their parent’s attention?
The internet can be an amazing place; it is a great source of knowledge. For all those parents answering “but, why?” for the 100th time a day, the internet can provide you with the answers to all of those questions your little ones are asking! “How many words are there in the world?” or instead of trying to explain to your child how crayons are made, why not show them a youtube video?
According to an ofcom study published last year, children aged 5 to 15 now spend around 20 minutes more online per day than they do in front of the TV. They spend just over two hours online, and a little under two hours watching TV, with YouTube still being the main online destination for children, with four in five children having used it.
Despite Youtube having a lot of child friendly content, you must be aware that there are always some videos that can slip through the net and could contain inappropriate, adult themed content. This can be quite distressing for young children; therefore an adult should always be within earshot when a child is watching and listening to videos on the internet. Many parents have reported that their child was watching a child appropriate program on youtube such as Peppa Pig, but the episode had been dubbed over with inappropriate content.
Youtube for kids
There is also a Youtube Kids App which has family friendly videos for different age ranges, which uses automated filters, reviews and feedback from parents to create a safer online experience for children. There are also resources to create and develop healthy digital habits for your children.
The app enables you to:
- Customise your child’s experience in the app
- Choose what content they can watch
- Limit screen time and block videos.
Keeping your children safe online
Children are getting more advanced at using technology from a younger age, so how can we help them navigate the internet in a safer way?
It’s always good to create a safe atmosphere where you can start a dialogue with your kids and keep each other up to date with what you use the internet for. If you show an interest and ask them to show you what websites they use and the sort of content they are looking for online, you can create a safe space where they can come to you for advice and let you know when they come across something that worries them.
Tightening your internet security to block adult content from search engines can prevent your children from accessing websites that are intended for adults.
Many devices and apps have security and privacy settings that you can adjust to help keep your children safe. Always keep any social media profiles set to private to avoid strangers gaining access to information about your child and their private photos.
If your child is playing a new game or has downloaded a new app, find out about it. Is it safe? What is its purpose? Who is its target audience? For facebook and instagram for example, make an account yourself so you have a better idea of what your child will be exposed to.
Would you let your child walk up to a stranger you’ve never met before and tell them where you live? Just like strangers in real life, they should never tell someone they don’t know private information about themselves. Sensitive information including their name, address, phone number, pet’s name or where they go to school could be used to locate them in real life.
You should also make sure that your children understand that not everybody they encounter on the internet is who they say they are. People can very easily pretend to be someone else, so they should never arrange to meet up with someone they’ve been talking to online and should tell an adult if someone suggests they do.
If you can, encourage your children to only talk to people you already know, like friends and family. Just like in real life, you should remind them to always be kind and respectful when they talk to others. If they’re typing messages to friends, remember that with written words, the expression in your voice can’t be heard. They might be making a joke, but it could end up hurting someone’s feelings. Nobody wants to be a bully or be bullied, so always be kind.
Think before you post
Explain to your children that before posting anything online to always double check and make sure it’s something they don’t mind the rest of the world seeing.
Posts on social media can be shared and end up going viral around the world, or they can simply be saved by individuals for their own use. Get your child in the habit of thinking that if it would be embarrassing for their grandmother or teacher to see it, then don’t post it. If posting photographs of other people online, especially of children, it is very important to make sure you have their parent’s permission, and try to cover up faces if possible.
If you have a games console like a PlayStation or Xbox in your home, you can chat online with a headset. This is a great way of playing team games with friends. Sometimes your child might play with strangers who could be much older than them, use bad language or say inappropriate things.
Most games have a report button you can click on to tell the game that someone is acting inappropriately, and block them if need be. Remind children that they can take a break, remove the headset and play without hearing the other players for a while. Make sure your child feels comfortable to tell an adult if someone is being unkind online, and you can help them decide what they want to do about it.
If your children want to download files from the internet like music and games, make sure they are using a safe website or trusted apps. You could show them the websites that you are happy with them using, or find new websites with them. Be wary of hidden costs in games and check what regulations, if any, you can impose to stop children running up a bill from virtual purchases they have made within games. It is not uncommon for parents to complain that their child recently ran up a big bill on a game they have been playing on their phone!
To prevent children from making online purchases whilst playing games or using apps, you can set devices to airplane mode. This prevents downloads, in-app purchases and the device from sending photos.
Baby monitors, particularly those with cameras, have been known to be targeted by hackers, who can gain access to the microphone and camera allowing them to talk to your child, as well as watch them through the camera. Ensure you change the password on your monitors when you set them up and always use a unique, secure password.
Popular with teens, Snapchat essentially enables you to quickly send a photo or message and after it’s been opened, it disappears forever. It’s helpful to explain to your child that technically, someone can screenshot the message or image if they want, which they can also broadcast to their story for friends and followers to see.
Snapchat is primarily only used on mobile phones, unlike Facebook and Twitter which can be used on desktop too.
What content can you restrict on Snapchat?
Here is a useful parent control guide for Snapchat made by non-profit organisation Internet Matters which shows you how to:
- Restrict chatting
- Report inappropriate content and block someone
- Turn off location sharing and turn on “Ghost Mode”
- Protect your privacy and prevent identity theft
- Restrict Sharing data
- Disable notifications, which may be good for your teen so they don’t get too overwhelmed with receiving lots of notifications.
It also shows you how to choose who can:
- contact you
- view your story
- send you notifications
- see your location
One of the easiest ways to set up parental controls is by configuring them on your router. Your router functions as the choke point where all the Internet traffic for your network flows through. Setting up parental controls here will allow you to perform web filtering for all the devices on your network — computers, smartphones, tablets, and even game consoles with built-in browsers.
Some routers come with built-in parental controls. If your router has this feature, it will often be advertised on the box and will generally be explained in the manual. You can go to the router’s web-based configuration pages and set up the parental controls for your network.
Many routers don’t include parental controls, but you can use OpenDNS to set up parental controls on any router. To do this, you’ll just need to change your router’s DNS server settings to use OpenDNS. OpenDNS allows you to set up an account and configure web filtering — you can select different types of categories of websites to block. Websites you block will redirect to a “This site is blocked” message when visited on your network.
For more information about changing your router’s settings, refer to its manual.
If you would like a specific device on your network not to be filtered, you can change its DNS server manually so it won’t use OpenDNS. Of course, this means that anyone on your network can change their DNS server and bypass the filtering. Like we said, such filters can be helpful for your children, but a teenager can get around it.
Family Groups on Microsoft Windows
Windows 7 has some built in parental controls, and Windows 8 and 10 have integrated controls. Check the Microsoft’s Family Safety website, where you can create a “family group” with your Microsoft Windows account. It enables you to:
- Set screen time limits
- Block inappropriate content
- View your kids’ weekly activity across all of their apps, games, and devices.
- Find your family, by knowing your family arrived somewhere without asking.
Norton Antivirus Family
An extention to the Norton Antivirus software is their family package which:
- has tools that show you what your kids are doing online and flags unsafe behavior so you can talk about it.
- helps your kids set limits around their device usage and establish healthy habits that’ll serve them throughout their lives.
- enables your kids to enjoy the Internet while protecting them from unsuitable content.
- provides parents with the information they need to help keep their child safer and focused when online.
- lets parents see their child’s search terms and viewed videos on youtube, monitor age-appropriate content, set screen time limits, and more.
- makes homeschooling easier now with their “School Time feature”, which provides the tools to help keep your child’s school day free of online distractions. (Available only Windows™, Android™ and iOS).
They have a 30 day free trial to test out here. Please note you will already need a Norton account.