How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online
- Parents Only
By: Zoe Crane, ellaslist
With kids being brought up surrounded by technology it is difficult to avoid, and while kids are using technology in some amazing ways, there are also dangers, especially with the internet.
It is a landscape that is difficult to navigate as parents because it’s so different to our own upbringing. These days, parents have to worry about inappropriate content, online predators and cyberbullying. So what can you do about it?
Rather than trying to keep kids away from technology (let’s face it, they are going to discover the internet at some point), embrace the incredible opportunities it brings by setting a few rules and tools to help keep kids safe online.
According to Internet Matters, nearly two-thirds of parents list age-inappropriate content as their top concern online. This could come in the form of porn, violence, swearing, gambling or sites that encourage criminal or dangerous behaviour.
Monitoring your kids’ internet use is one way to keep an eye on the type of content they are accessing but you can’t be everywhere.
For young kids that are just starting to use the internet:
- A kid-friendly browser like Kiddle is a good option.
- Switch on safe-search if using Google and try YouTube Kids.
- There is also filtering software available that can be installed on computers to either block or monitor sites and pages that may not be age-appropriate.
- Blocking pop-ups is also a good idea to stop kids accidently clicking on ads that might not be age-appropriate.
While all these technology solutions make it much easier to keep content clean, some things can slip through the cracks.
The most effective way to help kids avoid unsuitable content is to talk to them about it. As soon as kids start using the internet, you can talk to them about what they could see. This is also a good opportunity to talk to them about whether or not to trust information they find online.
- Let them know they may accidentally see something that could be upsetting or things you’d rather they not see.
- Get them thinking about whether what they find is a fact or just an opinion. It’s important not to get upset about what they might find, but stay calm and reassuring, and let them know they can tell you or another trusted adult about anything they see that they find upsetting.
- Find out what your kids want to do online and choose suitable sites and apps for those activities. You can even help them set up their favourites bar.
Spending time with your kids while they are online is a great way to start a conversation about safety.
The idea of an online predator is enough to send parents running for the hills – the ones with no electricity or phone reception. But the best way to keep kids safe is to teach them about safe internet use. Sites like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram have a minimum age limit of 13 years old.
- If younger kids want access to social media, you could set up a family account instead.
- If children are using the internet to talk to friends, set a rule that they can only talk to people they already know in the real world.
- Remind them that people might not be who they say they are online, and listen to their ideas about this.
- Most importantly they should never meet with anyone they met on the internet in person.
- You can also discuss topics that should never be talked about online, like sex, threats of violence, drugs or unlawful activities.
- Gaming sites are another place kids come into contact with unknown people, and any chats within them should be limited to the game.
- Another online threat is identity theft or scams, which children may not be as wary of as adults. Make sure kids never share any personal information and let them know that clicking on links that are not trusted can be dangerous.
Around 20% of young people experience cyberbullying, peaking between ages 10-14 when over 50% of kids report being cyberbullied. Only half of those affected tell their parents. It includes name-calling, threats, spreading rumours, being ignored or excluded and being sent rude or upsetting images.
It is important to remain approachable and let kids know they can talk to you about bullying. A fear of being banned from the internet or their phones prevents some kids from telling their parents what is going on.
Kids Helpline has a resource for parents on cyberbullying.
If your child is being cyberbullied:
- Talk to them about it calmly and help them find solutions.
- Give them tips to call the bully out like saying “You’re going too far – this is bullying and I want you to stop”.
- You can also help them to feel confident to walk away from bullying situations.
- It is best not to open messages from cyberbullies and to block them on social media sites. You could even change your online profiles and get a new phone number.
- Cyberstalking, repeated harassment containing threats in order to intimidate the receiver is a crime, and should be reported as such.
Top Tips for Online Safety:
- Put home computers in a family area like the kitchen, rather than in bedrooms.
- Teach kids to never give out contact information like full name, address, phone number or school.
- Use age appropriate browsers, filters and block pop-ups
- Set up favourites for the sites your kids use most often
- Some sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are for users over the age of 13
- Tell kids not to talk to anyone online that they don’t know in the real world and to let you know if someone they don’t know tries to contact them online.
- Check the browser history to see what websites your kids’ have been visiting
- Check the privacy settings on any new site your child is using
- Encourage kids to question things they find on the internet
It’s Scary How Easily it Can Happen
A new 2-minute video by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in the USA is providing a big warning to parents on how sexual predators can easily prey on our kids by tricking and blackmailing them to send sexual and explicit pictures and videos.