We all worry about our children on the Internet especially with the horror stories you hear in the media on a daily basis. I have a son who is nearly 5 who is already using the Internet and as a parent I do worry about what he could click on and see or do by installing some random program via a website.
The Internet nowadays never seems to be more than a few clicks away from something we don’t want our children to see regardless of whether your starting point is cBeebies or Google.
There are ways we can protect our children, some of them are common sense and others are making use of freely available tools. There are many different things that can be done but below are some of the the common and most important ones in my opinion.
1. Parental controls on computers
Not enough parents seem to be aware of parental controls on their home computer. Parental controls allow you to limit the sites your child can access and also the times they can use the Internet (Stops them using it while you are in bed unable to monitor their use) Although the latest versions of windows and the MAC operating system do come with parental controls I personally never find them quite enough for what I want to do and they can be a bit restrictive. A free tool that I have always highly recommended is K9 web protection.This software is really a must for any parent. A few of the features are:
- Allows you to restrict the times a computer can access the Internet (i.e. not allow access between 11pm and 7am
- Allows you to restrict sites you don’t want them to access.
- Comes with a host of default settings from mild filtering to heavy filtering.
- Allows you to select what categories to block from abortion and pornography to weapons and social networking sites.
- Has an override as a parent so it does not restrict your use (password protected)
- Adds safe search to most search engines ensuring your child cant search for anything you don’t want them to see
- Generates reports where they have been so you can monitor activity
- And many more features
There are also parental controls built into the operating system that can be used but are not as effective as K9 web protection.
2. Keep the family PC in a room where you can monitor what they are doing.
This is becoming more and more difficult now with the number of children having access to mobile devices and laptops which pretty much allow access to the Internet from anywhere. It is easier to control with very young children and you should try to keep the computer in a room where you can monitor their access and what they are doing rather than in their bedrooms.
3. Setting rules
Setting rules from the offset can help to stop problems in the future. Although difficult with the number of ways you can access the Internet nowadays it is worth remembering that most children relay on you to pay their mobile bills or broadband bills so you do control access to it. Setting firm rules with regards to their use and punishment for not adhering to the rules (No Internet for a day, mobile phone etc.) can help. In the age of cyber bullying it is every parents responsibility to always tell you child that been abusive and threatening online is not acceptable in any form.
4. Educating children
If we want our children to be safe on the Internet the best thing we can do is educate then on the dangers of the Internet. The below is taken from the directgov website
To keep your child safe you should tell them not to:
- give out personal information to people they only know online - this includes name, home address, landline and mobile numbers, bank details, PIN numbers and passwords
- supply details for registration without asking for permission and help from you
- visit chat websites that aren’t fully moderated/supervised
- arrange to meet an online friend in person without your knowledge and permission (if you agree to let them, you should always go along with them)
- give any indication of their age or sex in a personal email address or screen name
- keep anything that worries or upsets them online secret from you
- respond to unwanted emails or other messages
Related Post: Saying safe online
5. Be open with your child
If your child does accidentally go to a site they should not, rather than a lecture try to encourage them to tell you the site and how they got there. This helps you to filter the site in the future and also makes your child feel they can come to you in the future should they have problems online.
6. Ensure that your child is using an account that does not have administrative rights
Most operating systems have a facility to set the privileges of the user. On windows operating systems there tends to be 2 account types:
Standard – Can use most software and change system settings that do not affect other users or the overall security of the system. Things such as installing software, disabling system settings or anything that could compromise the system will require the administrator password
Administrator: Has complete access to the computer. Always ensure you password protect the administrator account.