You teach your children how to cross the road, and make them wear a bike helmet but what about when they go online – do they know how to be safe and have you done what you need to keep them that way?
So many of us feel out of our depth in the world of technology that maybe we don’t always put the protection in place we should for the internet. Here are a few simple tips that any technophobe can manage, to keep your family from stumbling across inappropriate images and some advice on how to help your kids navigate the cyber world more safely.
Parental Controls at Internet Service Provider Level – these can be ideal as they block inappropriate content for all devices in your household that use your broadband service so will cover you on more than one computer and mobiles when you are at home. You can choose what to block and include things like games and social networking sites or not. Talktalk has a free service called Homesafe https://myaccount.talktalk.co.uk/myservices/network/parental-controls, and also allows you to block sites during homework time if you want to. BT offer a similar service called BT Family Protection which is also free to download. Contact your ISP for information on what they can offer.
Google Safesearch – Google is automatically set at a moderate safely setting which will block inappropriate or explicit images, but you can set this to strict, which will also block explicit text. Go to the Google home page and you will find settings on the top right. Click on this and check the strict box. You can lock this by logging in to google.
YouTube Safety Mode – YouTube say that it is not intended for children under 13 but many children will have found this long before and be laughing away at “annoying orange” or “Charlie bit my finger!” Go to the bottom of the YouTube page and click safety mode – again you can keep this setting on by logging in, this will filter inappropriate videos and also hide any comments from view.
These measures will help with children who might accidentally come across inappropriate material while searching online but you may need to take stock again as your kids get older and more curious. The best thing to do is to teach them about why it is important to stay safe, and how to do this. This is especially important when they start to use social networking sites, which are such an integral part of young people’s lives as they grow. Talking to your children is always the first part in keeping them safe and if they understand your concerns they are more likely to come to you if something worries them online.
Children need to know that people can lie on the internet and pretend to be someone they aren’t and that it is very important not to give out personal information to people they haven’t met in the real world. CEOP is the government body responsible for Child Exploitation and Online Protection and they have a useful website with lots of tips for parents and teachers http://ceop.police.uk/. There is also help for children themselves at www.thinkuknow.co.uk with sections for 5-7’s 8-10’s and 11-16’s. It gives advice about social networking, Instant Messaging and Blogs and tells you where to go for help if you need it.
Social Networking sites such as Facebook are designed for adults and say they are not suitable for children under 12. We all need to understand how to use privacy settings so that only friends can view ‘photos and information we post. Another good tip is to ban computers from bedrooms so that children know whatever they are viewing might be seen by their parents or other family members.
Kids Browsers – younger children can have fun with specific kids browsers, these allow them to
explore the internet in an age appropriate way with games, video clips and search facilities specifically tailored to children’s interests, such as amazing animals, music and sport (though be aware that these are funded through advertising for products such as kids movies and TV). KIDZUI is one, and BuddyBrowser, both free with upgrades available for a subscription.