The internet can be a scary place for kids – keep them informed and you’ll help to keep them safe.
You can’t always monitor the sites your children visit on the internet, nor do you know what they do when they are with friends. The internet is an excellent playground for children. It allows them to engage, explore and learn technological and research-based skills – all positive things.
However, younger children can be confused by online scammers and tricksters, making the need for protection all the more necessary. Help your children to have a healthy, happy relationship with the internet with these tips…
- Don’t ban children from technology
Children will use the internet whatever happens, and the best way for them to learn about it is from you. Introduce technology at a pre-school age. The key is a gentle, guided introduction that’s fun and interactive.
- Be wary of webcams
If your PC has a webcam built in, be extra cautious – cybercriminals are known to use malware known as RAT (Remote Access Tools) to spy on victims through their cameras.
Criminals who sell access to households in this fashion are known as ‘ratters’. Turn off or disconnect webcams if possible on PCs used by your children – or stick tape over the lens and ensure your anti-virus software is up to date.
- Be open with your children about cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is very common and has become increasingly dangerous. Ensure that your children approach you with problems rather than hiding them from you. Tell them how common it is and teach them to never reply to bullies. Much like replying to a spammer, it gives the bully a sign that a target is ‘there’. Instead, children should save or print out messages, block senders if they can, and talk to you if they experience cyberbullying.
- Online safety for online games
Online gaming is often plagued by foul language and abuse, and gadgets such as games consoles can also have web browsers. Know which of your children’s gadgets can go online – as most games consoles have access. Consoles such as Xbox and Nintendo DS have parental controls, which block children from inappropriate content.
- Be friends with your children online
Where you can and where it is appropriate befriend your children on social networks – being friends with children can be invaluable for their safety and any threats of cyberbullying.
- Learn to use built-in controls for online safety
Many gadgets already have built-in controls that can help you protect children from adult content and include the ability to block in-app purchases. These features can help protect against ‘bill shock’ if children buy extras within games. Windows 8 PC also has upgraded security controls for parents and can monitor the internet use and deliver weekly reports on the sites your children have been surfing.
- Don’t leave them to it
The worst thing you can do as a parent is to assume that your children are more tech-savvy than you and that you won’t catch up. It is not about being the book of all knowledge. They will learn a lot more if you run into a problem and tackle it together.
Even now, many parents are still content to assume that their children are – even at an early age – more competent with computers and software than they are themselves. This may be somewhat true, but as an adult you are much better equipped to apply your coping experiences of the less unnerving healthy aspects of life in general to online life.
- Set up separate user accounts for your children
It is tempting to let the family share one Windows user account on a PC, but if everyone has their own OS account, it’s easier to keep track of when and how they are using the computer. If you have more than one child, this also means you can customise the level of protection they might need when they use the internet.
- Pay attention to the browser your children use
More than half of teenagers lie to parents about what they do online – so watch for ‘extra’ browsers installed on PCs. A periodic check on programs will allow you to see if any have been added. If your children are using a ‘secret’ browser, or deleting their history, it isn’t automatically incriminating, but it is something you should discuss together.
- Block offensive websites
Choose security software that allows you to block offensive websites in a customisable way – without, for instance, blocking news stories children might need for a school project. ESET Smart Security allows parents to block 20 website categories, and to customise the level of blocking according to a child’s age.
The software is password locked, so children can’t modify settings or uninstall without your permission. To put your heart – and your child’s safety – at ease, thoroughly research the best and most convenient parental control software programs available, to monitor and protect your child from inappropriate web content, spam and lurking strangers.