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Top ten ways to keep your children safe online in the Digital Age

With the burgeoning of Social Media, new challenges are emerging for parenting in this digital age. E-safety is a genuine cause; with the increased integration of Social Media in our children’s lives, indirectly lending to the advent of Cyber-Bullying- amongst many other issues.

This is not to say that Social Media doesn’t have it’s utilities; but for young children it is a platform that can be hostile, and not constructive to development.

Thankfully, for parents and carers, there are many options that can be utilised to better shield the younger generation from the dangers that have manifested from the digital age.

Whether purely practical or technological, here are ten ways in which you can help protect your child online:

1. Privacy and Social Media:

As a parent privacy is key if your child has social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram you can change the privacy setting. ​

  • ​On Facebook to edit things like places you’ve lived or your family and relationships, click About below your cover photo, then hover over the info you’d like to change and click Edit. Use the Audience Selector next to this info to choose who you’re sharing it with.​
  • ​On Instagram you can make your account private by going to your profile and pressing the 3 dots in the top right to open the settings. Scroll down to Account Privacy and make that active.​

Secondary profiles– be aware that it is possible for your child to create an additional profile that you do not have access to.​

2. Safe search– filter out inappropriate content​: 

  • Whilst google is at times a wonderful thing, the sheer size of it means undoubtedly there is inappropriate, sometimes even harmful content that can seldom be avoided. Therefore, it is important to filter out any content you do not want your child to see with one of the many safe search plugins. ​
  • Google itself has its own embedded safe search, that can be adjusted within google settings:​
  • On 11 November 2009, Google introduced SafeSearch Lock, which allows users with Google accounts to lock on the “High” mode of SafeSearch in Google’s Web, image and video searches. Once configured, the user can log out of their Google account and the setting will stick to prevent any change to the filtering level.​
  • Youtube kids app: ​

Accessible through the Apple and Android store(which can be found through a google search.

3. Take control:

  • Make sure you are the administrator on the computer and create another user account specifically for your children which you will have control over. This means your children will be restricted as to what they can view and download.​
  • The first thing to do is put a filter on what your children can and can’t access online and what type of sites they can view. Windows Vista has a parental control built in however there is other software out there which can help to keep children safe online, the most popular is ‘Net Nanny ‘.​
  • Setting up basic boundaries before allowing your child to use the internet can pay dividends in the long run. Of course, over time these boundaries will change, but making sure they are aware of what you are comfortable with them accessing online is crucial.​

4. APPS – guided access​:

Supervising your child online is an important, yet sometimes difficult task. You cannot constantly watch what they’re doing; where they’re going. Thankfully there are apps in place that help control what your child has acess to when using various devices.​

  • For instance, your child is practicing their timetables on a safe app such as ‘Mymaths’ but then switches to Youtube as soon as you leave the room… no  problem!​
  • For IOS the guided access app is after a brief set up, accessible under Settings, look for Guided Access There, you can lock the device on one app until you (the parents) put in a code or release it with your fingerprint. The app enables you to assign your own passcode, giving you control over what your child is on. ​
  • For Android download the app “Touch Lock – Touch Blocker and follow the onscreen setup to setup the screen blocker​
  • For PC you can use the built in assigned access in the settings to configure a profile to access only one application or as many as you like.

5.  Stay involved:

  • A practical way of ensuring your child’s safely traversing the internet, is by simply being around. It’s much easier to keep an eye on their online activity if you encourage them to use the internet in more communal areas(if they are using a portable device)- I.e. the living room or kitchen. ​
  • Moreover, ask them what they are getting up to; keeping a vested interest in what they’re doing will help you get a better gauge of whether they are acting differently, possibly due to a change in online activity.​
  • If you do see them on something they shouldn’t be on, don’t immediately shout at them. Ask. Why are they looking at this? Having a greater understanding of your child’s interests and online habits is important. You want them to be curious and inquisitive, but safe along the way. ​

6. Limit access through your provider:

  • Your internet provider can also help shield your child from any dangers on the internet. On sky for instance, they have their ‘Sky broadband shield’- allowing for inappropriate sites to be automatically blocked by the provider, even if safe search has been disabled.​
  • This can be done when you initially get your account, or it can be set up afterwards, if you sign to your account and modify it in the settings. You can tailor it to your own needs, for example changing the age rating(PG, 13, 18 rating), or even implement your own watershed option, allowing for the restriction of content based on the time of day

7.  Converse:

Simply put, speaking to your child and discussing how to be safe online is one of the best ways of keeping them safe:

  • It’s so important to keep the conversation going as they continue to use the internet, to help prevent problems, or to deal with them if they are already happening.​
  • Have a family discussion to set boundaries and agree which apps or websites are appropriate.​
  • Explore sites and apps together and talk about what’s suitable for children of different ages.
  • Show them how to use privacy settings, and the report and block functions on the sites and apps they use. ​
  • Reassure your child that they can always talk to you about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.​
  • Tell them you’ll help them to report anything upsetting they’ve seen, or to deal with online bullying.

8. Software monitoring:

  • One of the most effective ways of keeping your child safe online is by installing a software monitoring app. ​
  • Software is also avaliable for you to set specific Sites and Programms such as Qustodio. With the free version of Qustodio you can set rules and time schedules blocking out unsuitable content. If you go for the paid one you can also monitor SMS and Social Media.​
  • Another software you can use is OpenDNS

9. Airplane mode:

  • Another way to ensure your child is not viewing anything you don’t want them to, when you are not around, is to switch the connection to Airplane mode. You can do this under the Network and Settings, and click on the airplane mode icon. What this does is it will prevent your child from changing what site they are on(keeping them on whatever sites you approve of), preventing them from using the internet to access other sites. ​
  • Note: Be mindful, however, particularly young teenagers will likely be aware of how to change this, and as such it is important to still have a safe search tool implemented if they do turn off Airplane mode without your knowledge.​

10. Web content filtering:

Taking control with tech may sound really hard but it’s not. The most popular browsers such as Chrome and Microsoft Edge have built in web content filtering to limit what can appear on websites and during searches, reducing the harmful/inappropriate content that can appear.

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