7 ways to keep kids safe online

Today (February 11) is Safer Internet Day – the annual worldwide initiative aimed at promoting safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people.

So if you’re a parent worried about your kids online, whether it’s being duped into talking to a stranger, seeing inappropriate content, racking up huge bills on iTunes, or even getting involved in the ludicrous ‘neknominate’ craze – then follow our seven ways to stay safe.

1. Have a simple chat

 The internet is home to over 600million active websites and is used by around a third of the world’s population. In short, it’s huge. It’s also largely unregulated, so anyone can post pretty much anything they like from anywhere in the world, meaning your kids could be at risk.

But forbidding your kids to use computer entirely could be counterproductive to their development in an increasingly IT-led world. So first of all, sit them down and have a chat. You can do this in much the same way you warn them of ‘stranger danger’. Make it clear that people may not be who they say they are, and make sure they never give away personal information online.

2. Use parental controls

Then, make full use of the parental controls available to you on any devices your kids use. Start by adjusting the parental control settings in your web browser (the program you use to view websites) or download specialist parental control software to restrict the type of content your kids can see. And remember to put a block on pop-ups.

When it comes to email, set up a family account that can be used to register for websites and competition pages, and this will also allow you to see the type of emails your children are receiving and weed out any unsuitable ones.

You should also warn you children of the dangers of opening attachments, even from people they know, and set email filters to block any spam and phishing emails.

3. Avoid unexpected online bills

If your kids regularly play games and apps online, then you need to be aware that some of these games require payments to be made so they can progress – and sometimes to the tune of around £70 a time.

These are known as ‘bait-apps’ as the apps themselves are free or cost very little to download but come with expensive in-game purchases. So to make sure you don’t fall foul of this unethical, if not illegal, online phenomenon, check out the short video below…

4. Stay safe on social media

Social media has had a bit of a bad rap lately. First there the accusations by Stan Collymore, a former professional footballer and now broadcaster, that Twitter wasn’t doing enough to stop racist abuse and now there’s the ‘neknominate’ craze on Facebook, where users dare each other to drink all sorts of things from spirits to engine oil and everything in between, and which has tragically even resulted in the death of some participants.

And then there’s the potential problem of cyber-bullying.

So if your kids are using social networking sites, make sure the privacy settings are correct so only other friends can access their content, and then make sure their friends’ parents do the same.

If you suspect your child may be the victim of cyber-bullying, or even perhaps being contacted inappropriately by another adult, talk to them openly about it and contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) or your local police force.

Alternatively, if the online bullying is coming from other pupils in their school or a nearby school you may prefer to contact the school to deal directly with the problem.

5. Shut the door on vile video content

Although the parental controls on your browser should be enough to stop your kids viewing any truly inappropriate content, it may be worth adjusting the parental controls on YouTube too as some of its videos contain adult humour and swearing.

To do this, simply go to http://www.youtube.com/ and scroll down to the bottom of the homepage where you’ll see a footer containing a tab marked ‘Safety’ which will be set to ‘Off’ by default.

Click on this and the settings area will expand, you can then set the safety mode to on and save it as the default setting on your browser. Although not 100% accurate (no filter is) it will hide videos that may contain inappropriate content, enable Google Safesearch, and safety mode will be enabled wherever and on whatever device that account is used.

And if your kids post videos to YouTube, be sure to keep an eye on their content and who is commenting on it, and ask their friends’ parents to do the same.

6. Shop safe

 Shopping online is second nature to many of us these days, but this can lead to complacency which can leave us wide open to the threat of online ID fraud. And to help make sure this doesn’t happen to you, we put together the short video below…

7. Don’t let your guard down

One of the best ways to keep your kids safe online is to simply supervise the time they spend on the internet – you don’t have to peer over their shoulder the whole time they’re online, it could be a simple matter of having a shared computer in a family room and making checks on the type of websites they’re browsing.

You should also make sure any anti-virus software is fully up to date, and regularly check your system manually to make sure there aren’t any old programmes or cookies installed that are slowing your system down.

For more information on Safer Internet Day and how to keep kids safe online, click here.

How do you keep your kids safe online? Let us know on our message board.

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