Growing up in the 90s and early 00s, internet safety was not something my parents really had to consider. I remember exchanging emails with a friend on a regular basis, but MySpace wasn’t around until 2003, and I joined Facebook in my first year of university, when I was a little more sensible…!
However, we rely on the internet for everything in 2018 (I wouldn’t have my career without it!), and keeping the children safe while they’re online is something that is always at the forefront of my mind. Especially as they get older and more independent.
We do everything in our power to keep our children safe in the ‘real’, physical world – and as internet usage expands and grows – we must adapt to providing this support in the online world too.
Busby has recently started primary school, and they use tablets and computers in the classroom. And H-Bear, well H-Bear currently has an obsession with those surprise egg reveal videos on YouTube… so I find myself hovering to make sure he doesn’t click through to anything inappropriate.
KCOM are Hull’s leading internet provider, and a supporter of online safety experts Internet Matters. I’ve teamed up with them ahead of Safer Internet Day on Tuesday 6th February to bring you some great advice for keeping your children safe online:
1. Explore together
Talk to your child about what the internet is and explore it together. Show them all the fun things you can do online! For example, the CBeebies website is full of fun games and education activities.
2. Put yourself in control
Install parental controls on your home broadband. Most internet-enabled devices also allow you to set parental controls, so you can manage what content your child can see and how they interact with others online. If you live in Hull and East Yorkshire, you can find details here: https://www.kcomhome.com/products/broadband/parental-controls/.
3. Use passwords
Keep your devices out of reach of little hands (we hide ours in the wardrobe when not in use) and set passwords on all your internet-enabled devices. Both of my children are pretty good at remembering passwords – so don’t share them! That way, you’ll be more in control of when and where your children are accessing the internet. You can also make sure they’re not making additional purchases when they’re playing games or using apps.
4. Search safely
Use safe search engines such as Swiggle or Kids-search. You can save time by adding these to your ‘Favourites’. Safe search settings can also be activated on Google and other search engines, as well as YouTube. There’s also a Kids YouTube app, which can be downloaded.
5. Be involved
Encourage them to use devices in a communal area like the lounge, or the kitchen, so you can keep an eye on how they’re using the internet and also share in their enjoyment (or bewilderment, as per our reaction to some of the YouTube toy channels!). H-Bear and Busby often watch the iPad in our bed in the morning while we have a (hot!) cup of tea.
6. Manage access
On devices that your children use a lot, set your homepage to a child-friendly site like CBeebies. Also, creating a user account for your child on the family computer, or device, which only allows access to sites you’ve chosen is a great way to make sure they don’t come across anything untoward.
7. Help them learn through games
The internet is full of fun, educational sites like CBeebies, Fisher Price and Reading Eggs, where your child can explore without you worrying that they’ll suddenly be confronted with something inappropriate. Apps are also a great way of learning without actually needing to be on the internet itself, and there are lots of fantastic free ones available.
8. Set boundaries
Prolonged screen time isn’t ideal, and setting some boundaries and rules on how long your child can spend on a device is a good idea (especially when they’re a bit older), so you know when they’re online.
9. Check if it’s suitable
Probably an extremely obvious point, but the age ratings that come with games, apps, films and social networks are a good guide to whether they’re suitable for your child. For example, the minimum age limit is 13 for several social networking sites, including Facebook and Instagram. Although sites aimed at under-10s like Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin also have social networking elements.
10. Use airplane mode
And finally, switching to airplane mode on your devices when your child is using them is a great way to stop them making any unapproved purchases, or interacting with anyone online without your knowledge. In our household, we sometimes tell a little fib and say that the “internet isn’t working today”; switching the tablet onto airplane mode so the children can only play with our downloaded apps.
Do you have any top tips for keeping your children safe on the internet?
For more advice and tips to help keep your child safe online, visit https://www.internetmatters.org/advice/