One of the biggest concerns a parent has is the safety of their children online in the ever changing world of technology that we live in. Keeping up to date with what your children are doing can seem daunting. As I see it, our job as a parent is to educate and protect our children about the dangers they face in everyday life until they are old and wise enough to fend for themselves.
Right from a baby you feed them, you clothe them, you protect them. As they grow you hold their hand when they cross the road, and tell them never to talk to strangers. So as they are maturing you wouldn’t let your 12 year old mix with potential criminals or sex offenders, or view hardcore pornographic material online, but that’s exactly what they could be exposed to everyday, in your home, without you even knowing.
Social media is huge, online chat, Facebook, Forums, Twitter, Instant Messaging and unrestricted Google searches… all these things can expose your children to a potentially very real danger including cyberbullying. An unrestricted Facebook profile for example can tell the world your name, where you live, what you like to do, your mobile phone number, how old you are, whether you’re male or female and show off all your photographs. Also it’s not just on your home computer, a lot of kids now have their own laptops, mobile phones and tablets, where they could be accessing sites without you knowing.
In app purchasing has become a real nightmare for some parents as they suddenly get a bill for hundreds or thousands of pounds, not realising that their child, who is hooked on the latest games, has spent an absolute fortune on in app purchases.
As a parent myself I know how difficult this job is, especially as they reach their early teenage years when they are old enough to be their own person, but maybe not mature enough yet to realise the dangers they face. It is a difficult task, it requires vigilance and the understanding that they are likely to make mistakes, but as parents I believe it’s our job to once again step up and protect our children.
OK I am worried, what can I do?
There are some precautions we can take, things we can do to reduce the risks, I’ll run through a few here:
There are a few ways you can filter the content of your internet, and so control to a degree what your children can see and access online. These include filtering through your ISP (such as SKY, BT, etc), which can be arranged by speaking to your provider. The disadvantage with this type of filter is that it is far from perfect, yes it will filter a lot of the bad stuff out but it also tends to restrict some of the things you want and use every day (web-mail is sometimes affected, as are google searches). It doesn’t just filter for one person, i.e. your child, but it filters everything to everyone within your household.
The other way to go about it is by setting up parental control software on your child's computer, this can be installed on your child’s laptop or computer and locked with a secure password. This software then just filters content to the machine it is installed on, this is our preferred method for these reasons.
Google Safe Search
You may not realise it but if you have a Google account you can activate a feature called Google “Safe Search”, it is incredibly easy to setup and takes only a couple of minutes. It will restrict most (it’s not 100% bulletproof) of the unsuitable content, and it will be well worth the few minutes it takes to setup.
Mobiles and Tablets
Again a lot of people don’t realise that modern Android and Apple devices have features built in that allow parental control, protecting your child from some potential dangers, both have the ability to restrict application access (ie turn off the internet, email, YouTube, app store or play store). On Android for example, your kids can have a different login to you and you can protect your login with a secure password. Their login can have access to a set of controlled and restricted applications of your choice without the ability to purchase, where as your login can have full control.
Some would argue that this is the most important step out of them all, we teach our kids to read and write, we teach them to look left and right before crossing the road, we do this to protect them. It’s the same then with the Internet and the dangers it can pose, we live in a modern world with technology rapidly driving everything. Your children need computers, they need technology, there is no escaping that.
As they grow they will undoubtedly be exposed to risks both online and in the real world, its education that really protects them here, the ability to realise the dangers and make the right choices. Talk to your children about the risks they face online, make them aware of the potential consequences. Finally be approachable, if there is an issue or they are concerned about something, you want them to be able to approach you, not keep it hidden because they are afraid of your reaction.
Restrict Screen Time
Using a Microsoft Account, for example, it is possible to restrict your child's screen time. You can set it up so that your child can only access the computer between 4pm and 6pm. Once they have reached the end of the period, the child can request extra time, or the machine will be shut down. Ideal if you find your child is using the computer too much and not getting their homework done! It can also stop them from gaining access at night.
These are just a few of the things that can be done to help keep your child safe.
Can PC Guy help?
Yes, I offer a family safety package to secure your child’s PC, Laptop or mobile devices.
We use a combination of software and search restrictions tailored to your needs and restrict your child’s content, keeps them more secure while putting you in full control.
At every stage we explain how and why so that you understand what’s happening and how to control it. If you are interested, please give us a call and we are happy to discuss all the options with you.