How to Keep Your Children Safe Online
Does that feeling of needing eyes in the front, back and sides of your head sound familiar? In a world that is being increasingly influenced by technological devices and the online environment, keeping on top of what your children are viewing, sending and receiving online can very quickly become a daunting thought – but don’t let it overwhelm you!
We’re here to coach you through some easy, yet fundamental steps to help keep your children safe online at home. The first thing to do is to get them talking.
Having a discussion with your child doesn’t have to be a daily occurrence, nor does it need to take hours. Every so often we suggest beginning your conversations light-heartedly, with questions such as: What’s your favorite website? What are your favorite online games? Do you use these websites every day? Once you gain some insight into which websites, apps, and social media sites they’re interested in, you will be able to guide the conversation to help them understand the dangers or inappropriate content they may be exposed to.
Think about asking them what they deem to be inappropriate or what dangers they think exist online. Consider offering your own stories such as stumbling across inappropriate content on social media- get them thinking about what they are posting online! This will allow you to gauge how much they know about the topic and how much detail you may need to go into.
It is important not to assume they are engaging in risky behavior, nor to respond in an alarmed way. Try to continue the relaxed nature of the conversation, even if there are things you are uncomfortable with on a site. You also want to encourage a dialogue between yourself and your child about the opportunities and positive impacts these websites create also.
Set online boundaries
Now that you have spoken about both the opportunities and the risks being online creates, you can gear the conversation toward establishing boundaries, while ensuring your children are a part of the decision making process. You may want to think about discussing the following:
Usage limitations – Are they going over their data allowance? Are they downloading paid apps?
Age restrictions – Are they accessing appropriate apps for their age group?
Location tracking – Are they sharing their location on social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat?
These conversations will help you set appropriate boundaries to keep your children safe online, without completely isolating them. But how do we do this?
Ensure security and privacy settings are set
By opening up these discussions, you will also be able to emphasize the importance of their own personal security online and the importance of keeping their information private. There are a number of security and privacy settings you may wish to consider.
- Establish appropriate privacy settings on their current social media sites
- Disable location services on your children’s device within parental controls to ensure they’re not unwittingly sharing their location online.
- Make sure all current and future app downloads are not requesting and receiving data.
- Consider contacting your children’s mobile network and your home internet service provider to implement web access filtering in order to minimize the risk of accessing inappropriate content.
Age appropriate apps:
- Take a look at Common Sense Media’s handy “best of” list of apps which are categorized by age range.
What to ask your child’s school
This is all well and good when your child is under your supervision, but what about when they’re at school? It is fundamental that school staff are actively safeguarding students in the online world. In the same way you should be setting boundaries and privacy settings in the home, schools should be picking up this responsibility when your child is away at school. Below are a few questions you may wish to ask:
- Are they educating students on digital citizenship?
- How do they detect early warning signs of online risk?
- Do they have appropriate filtering and monitoring systems in place to identify risk?
- Do they have a reporting system in place for a child who has a safety concern?
Posing these questions to your school community can spark a broader conversation on how they are currently promoting digital citizenship, as well as ways in which they are safeguarding young people in a digital context. Schools cannot fully prevent risk from occurring, but by educating students to be good digital citizens and by detecting risk early, they are better able to intervene and safeguard effectively. If they don’t currently have anything in place to do so you may want to suggest:
- Establising a digital citizenship program to understand the importance of online safety
- Implementing an active monitoring system in order to detect early warning signs of risk
- Introducing an anonymous reporting tool for students to report any concerns they may have about themselves or another student
By taking the time to have these important conversations with your child and their school, and by taking appropriate steps regarding privacy and boundaries for your child, you cannot only help them stay safe online, you can also educate and empower them to become better digital citizens, so they will stay safe even when you aren’t able to watch them.
Sam Pemberton is the CEO of Impero, a company providing state-of-the-art software solutions, designed to protect children in our digital age. A father of two and married to a high school teacher, Sam is passionate about safeguarding young people and believes that the key to online safety is education, with the support of technology.