It’s Never Too Soon To Talk To Children About Being Safe Online
Several experts agree this is the new ‘talk’ every parent must have with their child. Laura Higgins from video gaming company Roblox advises that although every family is different, children are often fully active online by the time parents sit down for a chat. It’s better to try and get out ahead of the problem, especially because kids’ interests and online trends change so quickly. For that reason, try to be clued up about where young people are spending their time online, and don’t be afraid about getting the conversation started as soon as you think children are ready to take the subject seriously.
Understand What The Threats Are
Social media and games pose the biggest threat to privacy because of the significant amount of information required to start building a profile. That information is often used to target children with specific ads and content, paving the way for scammers and predators. Then there’s the chance that younger children unknowingly spend real money on in-app purchases by mistake – or agree to be friends with strangers online. Identity theft is another massive issue, with experts agreeing that children tend to make the best targets.
Start With Parental Controls & Kid-Friendly Apps
Setting up some basic parental controls is a good idea, with recent research showing that more than two-thirds of those aged 11 to 16 see this as a positive step. Check age recommendations for online games; activate safety settings; and use the mute, block and report features. An antivirus program will protect kids from the threats they can’t even see.
For children under five, stick to child-friendly versions of popular apps and platforms, like KidTube and Kiddle – a kid-friendly browser powered by Google. Children can search for images, video and information online, with parents safe in the knowledge that all harmful content will be kept out of view. Also, give your bank or broadband company a ring to make sure they’ve blocked any ability to make purchases without a password or bill payer’s consent.
If You Want To Get Tough In One Step…
A few years ago, child abuse survivor Stuart Brown developed a child-friendly virtual private network (VPN) to help protect under-13s from accidentally seeing things they don’t – and shouldn’t have to – understand. As well as letting kids browse the internet via encryption – so strangers or companies can’t track their activity – the cloud-based service blocks access to all social media sites, online messaging apps, harmful websites, phishing sites and most adverts, as well as forcing a ‘safe search’ feature onto most common search engines. These services can usually be set up and installed for around £10 a month.
It’s Okay To Follow & ‘Friend’ Your Child
When it comes to older children, it’s not good to go snooping through their phone or online accounts without permission. But setting up your own social media account and ‘friending’ your child can help keep tabs on them from a respectful distance.
Paul Bischoff at Comparitech even says monitoring teenagers’ public account activity this way makes them more conscious about what they post. Be careful, though: older teens might not take kindly to you leaving comments or sending them direct messages. If you have concerns about what you’re seeing them do online, try to share them face to face.
Kids Should Feel Confident About Not Sharing
It’s important children know not to share personal information (e.g. addresses, the school they go to, their age) online. It’s also up to parents to teach them to reset their own passwords and privacy settings regularly. Almost a quarter of all young users on Facebook never touch the privacy restrictions on their profile, while a fifth of them still publicly display their addresses and phone numbers.
Try Adjusting Privacy Settings Together
Getting familiar with the privacy settings for all major social media apps will allow you and your kids to tackle them together. Bischoff advises most children remove as much public information from their profiles as possible, before turning off location services and placing stickers on any front facing cameras. When it comes to Instagram or Twitter, it’s probably wise to take the entire profile private to ensure kids have total control over who sees their posts and who contacts them.
There’s No Foolproof Way To Stop Your Child Being Bullied Online
Limiting who children interact with online is all well and good, but potential bullies regularly include familiar faces, either from school or wider friendship groups. With that in mind, Higgins advises adults build relationships with their children so they feel comfortable approaching them with problems – just as they would in the offline world. The good thing about the internet is that nasty comments or posts can be traced, leaving proof of exactly what’s going on.
It’s Important To Be A Good Role Model
As kids get older, chances are they will follow your online activity too. If you’re not conducting yourself well, it doesn’t set a good example for your children. If you choose to restrict what they see of you online, be sure to explain your reasons, otherwise you risk them excluding you in the same way. Finally, if all you want is for them to switch off completely for some much-needed family time, make sure your phone is away too.
Useful Ways To Help Keep Children Safe Online
Check Out Social Media Privacy Settings
Familiarising yourself with different privacy settings across all the main platforms will help you install safer versions on your child’s phone or give you the confidence to discuss the issue at home.
Where To Find A Child VPN Service
See which package might suit you and your family below. It’s important to remember the service can be installed per device, rather than across the whole home, leaving parents’ phones unrestricted.
How To Deal With Cyber-Bullying
Discovering your child is being bullied or engaging in bullying activity online can be distressing. Here are some key resources to help guide you through the problem.
Preventing In-App Purchases
If your bank or broadband company fails to block or reimburse unintended transactions, this step-by-step guide from Apple aims to stop in-app purchases once and for all. There are also guides for Android or Windows users not using iPhones or iPads.
Kick-Start Your Own Digital Detox
It’s all very well promising to spend more time offline. But if you want to get serious here are some handy guides from The Body Coach, Joe Wicks, and healthcare company Bupa to get you started.
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