Internet safety for kids
Allowing your kids to access the internet? Of course you are! All of us parents are. And keeping young children and teenagers safe online is one of the first and main concerns for parents and teachers alike.
This is a very important issue, one that all parents would agree is becoming increasingly worrisome as the news throws more and more stories out about grooming and/or online bullying.
So we'd like to share some advice as well as a few links to useful free tools for online safety.
Child-safe search engine
When children need to research for school projects or just explore online for themselves, a child-safe search engine is an invaluable tool.
There are a number of search engines that are suitable for children which will help them find the information they are looking for, while at the same time, filtering the results so only child-friendly web pages and images will be shown.
'Safe Search Kids' is one such search engine. This useful search engine is powered by Google to deliver safe filtered search results. You can even set it to be the home page when they open a web browser.
Of course, it is good to share, and children are always told to share things, but sharing too much on the internet can lead to personal data being stolen or sold on to others. Not only that, sharing too much personal information online can be dangerous in a real physical sense.
How much do you know about the social networks your children are using? 'Net Aware' is a simple guide for parents (from the NSPCC) about the most popular social networks, apps and games. As well as advice, it keeps you up-to-date with what's new in social networking and privacy settings.
As things in software change rapidly this is a very useful 'go-to' guide to tell you what you as a parent need to know.
Posting personal photographs online
Not so much younger children but teenagers, in particular, will want to share personal pictures over the internet. The security settings should always be as high as possible so that posts are not visible to the public. Photographs posted should not include any identification to locale.
Make sure none are posted where your home address can easily be identified. The best method of course, is simply, don't post personal photos in public.
N.B. It is acceptable to tell your daughter that 'duck face' pictures only make her look ridiculous!
Parental control software
Parental control software and parental control features include internet content filtering to exclude unsuitable web pages and content; usage control to restrict the amount of time your child spends on the internet.
Filtering software also lets you monitor social media websites, block online chat, restrict content as well as a whole heap more.
But there's a caveat! I've found they're a huge pain to set up, monitor and use day to day, mainly because as a piece of software it can only block what you tell it to block, and you'll find yourself eating the hours up either adding or removing sites to its database.
I've had more success with broadband services like Sky Broadband Shield, which simplifies the whole thing, is household-wide, and is very easy to manage. And if you already have Sky Broadband - it's free!
Teenagers, in particular, should know what security tools are available to further protect themselves, their personal data and their computer from spyware, spam and viruses. All computers should have an anti-virus program running on them, and it's very much recommended to add an anti-malware program too.
Free security check-ups and tools
The majority of the well-known computer security companies offer free security checkups for your computer and will check your computer for spyware, known viruses and lots more. 'StaysafeOnline' has an extremely helpful resource listing all the FREE security check ups and tools from all of the major computer companies.
Perhaps one the most under-utilised but more effective methods to stay safe is to simply talk to your children about staying safe online and make sure they know they can come to you and ask for help if they need it or feel uncomfortable about something they have seen.
Urge your children to steer clear of free giveaways, questionnaires and online competitions and in particular pop-up adverts offering the world! While the offers may seem attractive, the majority of these tactics are endeavours to gather and sell personal information. Close the pop-up and move on.
1. Keep the privacy settings as high as possible.
2. Make sure your children know never to give out passwords.
3. Remind your children that not everyone online is who they say they are.
4. If using social media, stay respectful, and don't write or post anything that you wouldn't be happy to say or show to a whole stadium full of people!