If your child owns a tablet or smartphone you’re probably monitoring her online time. Most parents take care to set up parental controls and subscribe to suitable video channels, but children are, almost by definition, curious by nature.
As they become more familiar with tech use and the internet they are bound to click on something they should rather not see, or download malware aimed at innocents. We’ll list a few excellent parental control tools and tips for parents to keep children safe online.
INTERNET PRIVACY IS IMPORTANT
Everything that anyone posts online will be online forever. Explain to your child why she should never share sensitive details online, and remind her with a list of the information she may never share such as her name, photographs, school, phone number, or address.
Think ahead. Consider how your children’s internet usage will evolve as their information needs change over time. Discretion gets even more important as kids get older and demand access to social networking sites. By that time, good privacy habits should be ingrained.
THE INTERNET NEVER FORGETS
Why should we pay special attention to discretion? Because no matter how strict her privacy settings, or how discreet she is, there is an almost 100% chance that her posts or pictures will – via hacking, data breaches or even unintentional acts by one of her friends – one day reach the public arena.
Consider the following scenarios: Are you looking for a long-lost cousin? Want to learn a little more about your new neighbours? Doing a background check before appointing an out-of-towner? You’ll love people-finder sites – try Nuwber for comprehensive personal reports to help you make important decisions.
The point to ponder? While your search was for the ‘right’ reason, someone else may be using a similar site with a darker intent.
Nuwber and other people finder sites are extremely useful, perfectly legal, and highly accurate data aggregators. They obtain their information legally from public platforms such as social media sites, official records, and bits of information stored in obscure corners of the internet. Your family and especially your children have a right to privacy, but it is up to you to protect that right. Insist on your child’s discretion.
BE A CRITICAL INTERNET THINKER
The internet holds information on every conceivable subject, but not all online information is accurate or reliable. Show her how to check information via a process of comparison using alternative sources on the same topic, and bookmark a few trusted sites where she can do fact checks.
Teach your kids to always check a site’s credibility before opening a link, and to use only secure websites. The HTTPS-everywhere browser extension by the Electronic Freedom Foundation can lend a hand while your children learn.
Trolling and abusive behaviour on the internet is a growing problem. Guide your kids to maintain a positive presence online, and to report bullying to you immediately. Also discuss the general rules of internet etiquette:
- Think before you post – it will be there forever, and may come back to haunt you!
- Don’t share something that isn’t true.
- Don’t be mean and be careful about how you deliver your opinions. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t post it online.
- Respect cultural differences and other people’s choices.
INTERNET SMARTS FOR LIFE
Just like real life, offers that seem too good to be true usually have a nasty little sting in its tail. Bad actors go to great lengths to disguise scams and malware, and they are masters at tricking people into clicking links and taking actions they would not normally do. Discuss her options in cases where a pop-up promises a million dollars for clicking a button or submitting her name, contact details, or photographs.
Reinforce your general safety guidelines by teaching her to report and block inappropriate content, and to tell you if she receives messages, videos or photos that make her feel uncomfortable.
Kids do sometimes come across adult material by accident. Be prepared for this with a list of guidelines for situations where she sees something upsetting or inappropriate.
Have some family fun creating strong passwords for all her online accounts. Like your passwords, hers should never contain personal information such as a birthday or name of her pet, should contain a combination of numbers, symbols, upper- and lower case letters, and must consist of at least 8 characters.
Look for an opportunity to safely introduce her to a password manager like LastPass, where you can manage each family member’s access without exposing the passwords you use for sensitive accounts.
MORE FAMILY SAFETY TOOLS
Google’s Family Guide is an excellent source for comprehensive discussions about gaming, social media use, finding positive content, and more.
The Be Internet Awesome Guide reinforces the fundamentals of safe internet usage with structured learning programs (Be Internet Awesome Curriculum), a pledge (Be Internet Awesome Pledge), and an interactive game (Interland) where kids learn the key lessons of digital safety by playing immersive online games.
Also, download Family Link which allows children to log in to assistant-enabled devices, using their own account, to access games and activities designed for families. Kids are blocked from making transactions, and you can limit or block access to specific websites.
FamilyLink also lets you set screen time limits, block app downloads, locate your child’s device remotely, and set up SafeSearch filters for protection across phones, tablets and laptops.
A BONUS FINAL SAFETY TOOL
No parental control tool is foolproof, and mishaps do occur. Someone may inadvertently click on the wrong link (it might even be you!) Guard your computer and double up on protection with a good antivirus program like BitDefender Antivirus Plus or Kaspersky Total Security for safe family fun on the internet.