One of the biggest fears for parents in recent years has been the safety of their children online. It seems like not a day goes by without the latest horror story of nasty individuals or organisations using the internet to groom and exploit vulnerable people and children, so it is natural to feel anxious. To help you and your family feel protected, we’ve gathered some top tips for staying safe online.
1. Have the conversation early
Though it is the most difficult step, and the most ignored, talking openly with your children about internet safety measures is crucial. Installing controls and limits on internet use without explanation or compromise means that children are likely to try to find a way around them, pushing the problem to a place where you can’t see it. Help children understand your concerns by helping them identify red flags – perhaps emphasising that strangers should not be adding young people on social networks and that it is an odd thing to do. Having an open dialogue helps you establish what behaviour is expected and prevents your children from viewing your measures as draconian.
2. Install anti-virus software and parental controls
This is the bread and butter of internet safety, protecting you and your family from a wide variety of scams and hacks, protecting your children from accidentally stumbling across inappropriate sites. Make sure you do your research to find the best antivirus program for you, and don’t let your children set it up for you!
3. Keep computers in communal areas
It may make them grumble and, according to them, all their friends are allowed, but children should not be accessing the internet in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Keep laptops and family computers in the living room or study where there is likely to be people coming in an out. This reduces the risk of children being able to hide their online activity, and reminds them to stick to family-friendly content.
4. Keep a sneaky eye out
If you feel that your child may be at risk or is behaving inappropriately on social media, a good tactic to monitor their public activity is to make a Facebook page for the family pet. Keep it humorous and light – much of the time, children are will to accept a friend request from Buster the dog even if they won’t accept one from Mum. Do not attempt to spy on your child’s private activity, such as emails or personal messages, unless you have strong suspicions that they may be at risk. This is a betrayal of trust so your child will not feel able to come to you if they find themselves in a tricky situation.