Keeping kids safe online

Online safety should never be underestimated. Especially when it comes to keeping children safe on the internet. It’s not just that children can easily access almost any material online, from cartoons to porn. It’s also that children can be easily exposed, through no fault of their own, to so many potential dangers: cyberbullying, violence, stalkers… The list could go on.

The internet is amazing, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that it’s a completely unregulated place (as it should be) that sometimes can lead the unwary down some dark alleys.

With a little bit of preparation and some judicious thought it’s perfectly possible to keep kids safe online. Here are five things you can do –

Browse with your kids: When your child first starts using the internet, don’t let them wander off unsupervised. Lead the way and show them around first. Once you’re happy that they know the basics of staying safe you can start stepping back.

Control what your child has access to: These days children are as likely to go online via a smartphone, or tablet, as a computer. This could make it difficult to monitor what your child is up to given the proliferation of devices. There is software out there that allows you to block certain websites, control what apps your child downloads and put in place data restrictions so that your child can only download or consume a certain amount of information.

Enable parental controls: A lot of devices and software, such as web browsers, have some sort of parental controls built in. Make sure you enable these and set them up. Parental controls will allow you to choose what the device can and can’t do. In browsers, you can whitelist and blacklist websites and block certain keywords and search terms. By turning on parental controls you can make sure that your child has a better chance of keeping away from the parts of the internet you feel are inappropriate.

Befriend your child on social media: Most social media sites say that only those 18 years or older can join. But there are so many kids who lie about their age and get on. Rather than being draconian about it you could steer your kids to social networks that you think are appropriate for them. And by being part of their network you can see who they’re interacting with and what they’re sharing. This is the simplest way to keep track of what they’re up to in a friendly, non-invasive way.

Talk about the dangers of the internet: Finally, discuss online safety with your children as soon as possible. It’s best to talk about the dangers that the web can pose and be commonsensical about this. For instance, telling your child the equivalent of not accepting sweets from strangers. This is really about using the same rules online as you do offline.

Try out these simple things to help keep your child safe online and see how it goes. But please also do some of your own research into keeping kids safe on the internet, it will give you some peace of mind while they’re let loose in cyberspace.

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