Technology and the internet are ingrained in our lives in a manner that was unimaginable just 10 years ago. Increasing numbers of young children have smartphones nowadays, and most children will use the internet in some form by the time they start school. As access to technology widens, the role of parents in protecting their children online has become more important. My eldest son is 7, and has already started to want a little independence when using the internet, and I feel it is important for me to review our internet safety. Listed below are a few simple tips that all parents should follow in order to keep their children safe when using the internet.
1. Use their correct age on websites and games!
Parents need to ensure that their child uses their correct age when playing games online or registering for website accounts. Typically, children under the age of 13 will be prevented from using chat features on websites and games, in order to prevent them from sharing sensitive and personal information to strangers online. Some children will want to bypass these chat restrictions by using a false age, so parents must be vigilant and make sure that they are prevented from chatting online.
2. Take technology away at night.
Even if you trust your child fully, good practice is to take away their technological devices at night and in the mornings to ensure that they are not using the internet without supervision. Too many children are left alone in bedrooms with computers, tablets or mobile phones connected to the internet, which opens them up to serious risks. You can make putting electronic devices away part of a bedtime routine, so that it becomes an accepted part of their day.
3. Use a good anti-virus
A decent anti-virus program will allow parents to restrict the websites their children have access to, using automatic content filters along with custom website blocking. Although many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will block inappropriate content, a second layer of protection through an anti-virus program is important to ensure that questionable content is disabled.
4. Set up a YouTube password
Children of all ages like to watch their favourite YouTubers, but YouTube is full of content unsuitable for children. In order to allow children access to YouTube, but also to keep them safe, a YouTube password can be used which blocks all content unsuitable for children. This will allow kids to watch videos from Zoella and PewDiePie, but will block videos parents would not approve of. Similar locks can be applied to online video streaming services, such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer.
5. Take responsibility
An anti-virus program can only do so much when it comes to protecting children online. Final responsibility remains with parents to make sure their children know what they should and should not be doing online. Internet safety talks are frequent in primary and secondary schools, but parents should regularly discuss how to stay safe online with their children.
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