The internet is a wonderful tool, that enables us all to connect, share, learn and discover.
It is especially useful to kids because it enables them to explore and learn about things that they may not have even been aware of, fostering curiosity and wonder, facilitating their education. It would be a great injustice if our children were unable to use such a great resource just because of the threat from a shameful minority.
There are ways to keep your kids safer, and here they are explained below in easy-to-follow steps, which hopefully will help even the least of technical minds protect their children more effectively.
There is no substitute for being actively involved in the lives of your children, and trusted by them, and of course for educating them without panic so that they are armed with the tools to protect themselves. There are no safety programs or privacy settings that will stop children who are unaware of the dangers from meeting people online, via social networking sites or in chat rooms, from putting themselves in danger if approached online by a predator.
Try to familiarize yourself with the internet. Make your own account on the sites your child uses (eg facebook, chat rooms . Get a feel for what it is about, learn the language and trust your instincts. Knowledge empowers you to protect your babies more effectively.
Parents have a duty and a responsibility to take an interest in their child’s online activities, and to TALK about the risks with their child.
Practice ‘What Would You Do if…?’ scenarios with your child (eg what would you do if someone asked you to send a naked picture online? What would you do if someone you don’t know sends you a message asking to be friends?) Talk through the ‘safe choice’ for each of this situations with your child.
NOTE: More than 70% of sexual crimes against children are committed by someone known to the victim, such as a friend, or family member. For help protecting your children from this type of abuse, go here.
Make sure your child knows:
- NEVER to chat to someone online who they don’t know well in real life.
- The same ‘safety’ rules apply online as in real life. Children must know NEVER to reveal personal/sensitive information they wouldn’t tell a person face to face (such as address, school or anything else that could be used by those with sinister intentions to contact or trace your child). Use common sense.
- NEVER take/send nude/embarrassing photos/videos.
- The differences between ‘talking’online and face to face. Explain to your child how chatting online can lead them to feel they know someone better than they actually do, and that some people on the internet will pretend to be someone they are not. Make sure your child knows that not everything on the internet in necessarily real, genuine or true.
- To come to you if they are ever asked online to do anything they are uncomfortable with, or to keep anything from you, or are approached by someone they do not know online or if someone says something or they see something online that disturbs them. Also to tell you if they see anything that upsets them in anyway, or if they are threatened or intimidated online. Explain calmly and be re-assuring, make sure they know they will never be in trouble for being honest with you and that you will listen.
- NEVER to meet anyone from online without your express permission and presence.
- Not to fill out online forms without your awareness.
- If your child is old enough (13+) and wants to use social networking sites like Facebook/Twitter, make sure you are with them when they set up their account. Don’t use a real or provocative screen name, as these are more likely to be targeted by predators or for spam. USE A SHARED FAMILY EMAIL ADDRESS so that you have access to emails your child receives Make sure your child enters their correct birthday, as on Facebook people under 18 years old do not show up in searches, and content will be restricted. Make sure privacy settings are set to the highest level possible (see below).
- If your child has any problems online (grooming behavior, bullying, harassment , or if you/your child finds any illegal material on the internet (eg child pornography), report it. Go here for more information.
- Use the ‘Parental Blocking‘ feature of your browser, or consider investing in parental-control software. If your child has a smart-phone, contact your service provider (eg: O2, TalkTalk, Vodafone etc) to ensure explicit content is blocked on their phone.
- Go through with your child all contacts on all messengers (in phone and online, such as Black Berry Messenger, Whats App, Facebook, Xbox, Wii etc) and make sure all are known and safe. Remove and block all unknown/unsafe. explain to your child why this is important.
- Keep your family computer in a shared place (the lounge or dining room for example), where you can keep an eye on your child’s online activity, but with the advancement of mobile Internet, this alone is not enough.
- Children should not spend prolonged periods of time in front of a screen and should take regular breaks. Children should not play violent video games as studies have shown time and time again that these de-sensitize children to suffering in reality. Always check the age certification.
Step By Step: Staying Safe on ALL Devices (source)
Kids simply love these easy-to-use devices, which makes parental controls even more vital.
To limit what your child can see on everything from apps to movies, follow the link to Apple below then tap Settings > General > Restrictions on the machine.
2) Facebook Safety Center
Without doubt, a site that every parent or teacher should visit.
Learn about account settings, how to control who sees what, how to block or “defriend” other users and report abusive or offensive content..
3) Sony Playstation 3
They have revolutionised gaming and can also download films and surf the net.
Go to Sony’s parental controls page via the web address below and find out how to apply content restrictions on films and games, set chat preferences and limit in-game spending.
4) Xbox 360
Another multi-purpose console with access to movies and the net.
The web page below helps you learn how to control ratings and content and to set limits on how long each child can play.
You can also decide whether your children can connect to Xbox Live for online gaming.
5) Kindle Fire
Kindles and other e-readers have made reading cool again.
But they can also be used to surf the web, so there’s a danger.
Download a software update at the first address then follow instructions on the second one.
6)Virgin Media TV/Sky TV/BT Vision TV
There’s of lot of adult content on satellite and cable TV these days but it’s easy to stop your children seeing it.
The brilliant website below helps you stay in full control of content from all three providers simply by using your remote control and setting up a PIN code.
7) Nintendo Wii
This interactive console is hugely popular with all ages.
The parental settings page below looks a little dull and techy, but don’t be put off.
Within a couple of clicks there are simple instructions on how to restrict your child’s access to games, Wii Connect and the internet.
8) Nintendo DSi and DSi XL
Hand-helds are no longer just for gaming.
Many can access the internet and let you chat online.
This site has a step-by-step guide to setting up parental controls.
You can limit what your children can download on the internet and even monitor their conversations with other users.
iTunes is the gateway to downloading music, TV shows and films on to your computer, iPhone or iPod.
The site below makes parental controls really easy.
Find out how to disable podcasts and restrict explicit content at the iTunes Store, and how to set controls on radio content.
10) MAC OS X
The web address below has videos showing you how to set controls that then apply to any web browser on a Mac computer, how to restrict movies and control the time spent on the computer.
Videos also walk you through Mail, iChat and keeping a log of a child’s online activity.
11) Internet Explorer
The PC web browser has easy parental controls and the address below shows how to block sites such as those depicting drug or alcohol use, violent images, nudity or bad language.
Go to the toolbar followed by Tools > Content > Content Advisor > Enable.
You then have to set a password.
12) Windows 7
The current Windows operating system has a simple process for controlling what children see online. Go to Start > Control Panel > User
Accounts then Family Safety > Set up Parental Controls. Choose whether to set restrictions for one user or all. More at the address below…
13) Google’s Family Safety Centre
Not only can you learn how to stop kids seeing certain sites, you can block them from searches results too.
SafeSearch restricts websites, SafeSearch Lock sets a password and YouTube Safety Mode hides inappropriate content on the video site.
Internet service provider AOL offers parental controls but before you can set it up you have to download specific software.
It’s worth the time and effort to protect your children and all the information you need to guide you through this process is found in the link.
Other Useful Information
Kidsmart – Lots of helpful information for parents and children
Ad-Block Plus – Free ad blocking for better browsing.
Parental Control Software – Advice from Which? for your PC
Parental Control on Phones – Information From Ofcom
Internet Safety Advice – Netmums
Internet Safety Advice – NSPCC