Child Safety and the Internet: Tips for Parents
There are many ways to fine tune the version of the Internet your kids see, from free content filters from all the major vendors to fancy software packages that cost money.
Read on and we’ll talk about some of the parental control options you have. But remember – while there are some incredibly useful parental control tools out there, you should always make sure to monitor as much as possible what your kids are doing online – there is no substitute for parental supervision.
All major UK broadband providers, including BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and EE, are required to offer content filters as standard. These block sites with inappropriate material like pornography, self-harm, and other nastiness. They also restrict access to sites known to contain viruses and other malware.
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You must choose whether you want to enter or exit these filters when you first set up your broadband, and you can change the settings at any time by logging into your account page.
Parental control software is available for free and some providers offer it with broadband plans. Unlike content filters, which are at the “network level” and apply to anyone using that connection, the software only affects the device on which it is installed. So if you put it on your PC, for example, it won’t affect what your kids are doing on phones and tablets.
In addition to filtering out inappropriate content, such as pornographic, violent, or gambling-related sites, some software allows you to monitor your children’s online activity and even restrict the times of day they are allowed. to use certain websites.
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Generally speaking, any device that can access the internet will have its own set of onboard parental controls that you can tinker with before the kids get their hands on them. This is especially useful if the software that came with your broadband is of the type that only applies to one computer at a time.
Apple’s iPhone and iPad, for example, have a wide array of restrictions – all easily accessible from the settings menu – which can be locked and password protected. These and many other devices also allow you to turn off paid transactions in apps and games.
No such system is perfect, so it’s a good idea to use all the tools at your disposal. By placing restrictions on how devices are used as well as on the installation of software, your children are half as likely to be exposed to harmful or inappropriate material online.
Sometimes your web browser, the program you use to browse the Internet, will allow you to block certain types of websites. These settings can be used with any software you have already installed on the computer, adding an extra layer of protection.
For example, if you are using the Google Chrome browser – available as Free download – there is a feature that allows you to create different account profiles for “supervised users” and “managers”, giving you full control over how your children use the internet.
Again, it’s best to use it in conjunction with other parental controls, as the settings will only apply to one browser. Older and more tech-savvy kids will quickly find a workaround, such as simply downloading another web browser.
On some websites and internet platforms, such as Google, YouTube, and iTunes, you can turn on a family-friendly filter that should block content that is inappropriate for children. Again, there is no such thing as a flawless system, so it makes sense to use it with other parental controls.
This is only really useful for very young children, as older children will figure out how to turn off the filter if their curiosity wins out and they want to watch things that they aren’t meant to be watching.
General online safety tips
We hope you find some of the tips provided by the Get Safe Online Internet Safety Initiative below that will help you manage your children’s Internet experience.
- Set limits for your child before they get their first device connected, whether it’s a mobile, tablet, laptop or console. Once they have it, it can be more difficult to change the way they use it or the settings.
- All major vendors offer network-level parental controls. When you upgrade to a new broadband plan, you have the option to turn on content filtering to block adult content. Remember, this doesn’t mean all bad stuff is blocked – no filter is fully effective – so you’ll have to stay alert.
- Talk to your child about what is safe and appropriate to post and share online. All comments, photos and videos are part of their “digital footprint” and can be seen by anyone and available on the Internet forever.
- Talk to your child about the type of content they see online and the precautions they need to take when communicating with others – for example, never share anything personal with strangers.
- Remember that services like Facebook and YouTube have a minimum age limit of 13 for a reason. Don’t give in to the pressure – talk to other parents and the school to make sure everyone is on board.
- Explain to your child that being online does not give them anonymity or protection. Make it clear that they shouldn’t do anything online that they wouldn’t feel totally comfortable doing face to face.
For more information and advice, visit Stay safe online.
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