We know just how much time kids spend chatting, surfing or playing games online and how much they love connecting and sharing with people all over the world.
But there are risks that lurk in cyberspace, so learn how to make the internet a safer place for your kids.
The good news is that keeping them safe online doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s more about common sense and communication than computer know-how. In fact, just a few simple steps can ensure that every child can surf safely.
Understanding the risks that young people may be exposed to is the first step towards protecting them. Find out more about the most common dangers that children face online.
- Spending £££
Lots of free online games sell tempting things like extra lives, power ups or new levels, making it easy for players to run up bills. Make sure you use passwords and age ratings on games and apps to prevent children using inappropriate games or spending your money without realising.
As more and more ways are developed for children to interact online and via mobile devices, this increases the risk and possible impact of cyberbullying. This normally happens through abusive messages which are posted online, where they can be seen by lots of people. Unlike with face-to-face bullying, the 24/7 nature of the internet and social media means it is difficult for the victims to get away.
Most social networking sites require users to be 13 or over to register, but these restrictions are difficult to enforce and easy to bypass. Social media is also an environment for adults, so think carefully about when you want your children to start to be exposed to the different networks. The influence of social media and the desire to fit in may also encourage children to post comments or images that could affect their online reputation.
When your child connects to someone as a friend online, that connection may be able to access personal information such as name, age, address and more. Your child may also unwittingly reveal personal information with people they don’t know. Also, many sites offering free games sell on the data needed to access these services.
It can be easy for children to seek out or accidentally view illegal or unsuitable content online, including obvious things like pornography. However they could also come across even more worrying things like child abuse images, dangerous advice encouraging eating disorders, self-harm or suicide and excessive violence and race hate materials.
Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation, and now it often happens online. The popularity of social networks, online games and chat rooms means it is easy for children to chat and become online friends with people they have never met and who might wish to do them harm.
Taking control with tech
If you have younger children, one of the simplest things you can do is make use of parental controls that give you the ability to filter the type of content your children can see when they’re online.
No system is 100% accurate so don’t over-rely on technical tools – make sure you keep talking to your children to help them develop their critical thinking as they grow up. The most popular browsers provide features to block malicious or inappropriate sites using a safe search filter and the big internet service providers all offer free parental controls.
Dedicated software is also available from all well-known developers allowing you to set the level of monitoring, block access to specific sites and programs, receive email alerts and even record keystrokes. But think carefully about using monitoring software and how this might impact your child’s behaviour online.
Finally don’t forget that mobile phones, tablets and games consoles all come equipped with their own parental controls that can be accessed via settings.
Plus, more and more manufacturers are developing tablets and devices aimed specifically at children which are designed to protect younger users straight from the box.
Keep it private
Parents at Google UK talking about child safety online.
It’s so important to keep the conversation going to help prevent problems, or to deal with them if they are already happening.
- Have a family discussion to set boundaries and agree which apps or websites are appropriate.
- Explore sites and apps together and talk about what’s suitable for children of different ages, making sure they feel part of these discussions.
- Show them how to use privacy settings, and the report and block functions on the sites and apps they use. Find out how if you don’t know!
- Reassure your child that they can always talk to you about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Tell them you'll help them to report anything upsetting they've seen, or to deal with online bullying.
What kind of parent am I?
identified common categories that most parents fall into when it comes to keeping children safe online.
As a fully paid-up member of the techie club, you’re well aware of the risks faced by children online, but you’re not too worried by them. The small amount of protective action you’ve taken should be enough to keep them safe.
You’re a bit of a late starter in terms of technological prowess and don’t fully understand the dangers that can lurk online. You’re not sure what action you can take and don’t feel confident that your children are safe when they’re using the internet.
- In control
It’s reassuring to know that you’re in complete control with high technological confidence, high awareness of online risks and high levels of concern. The action you’ve taken will keep your children safe and sound and you know it.
You have a relaxed parenting style but aren’t that confident when it comes to technology. You currently don’t know that much about the risks your children face online but would like to know more. You don’t have many online controls in place for your children but you’re reasonably confident that they’re safe.
An authoritative parent with reasonable technological confidence, you have a high awareness of online risks. You are confident your children are safe and adopt a hands-on approach when it comes to taking the right steps to protect them.