How to keep your children safe online

With computers, smartphones, tablets and games consoles in most family homes, our children have greater access to the internet than ever before – which means it’s more important than ever to put measures in place to ensure they can still enjoy the internet without putting themselves at risk.

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Communicate, communicate

Start by talking to your kids regularly and openly about the potential dangers of what they’re doing online or in an app. The level of your conversation will obviously depend on the age of your kids, but live by the mantra “If you wouldn’t do it face to face – don’t do it online” and you and your children should be able to avoid a whole lot of trouble!

Make your connection safer

Before fiddling with browser settings, app locking and any of the other more advanced things you can do, an easy starting point to keep your kids safer online is to make the connection itself safer. Most internet providers offer free parental control filters as part of your broadband package. You apply these to the hub so any device connected will be affected. It is best to refer to your internet provider for instructions on how to set this up – it might be included in your welcome pack.

Likewise, most mobile networks are automatically set up to restrict 18+ content unless authorised by the bill payer. However, if you’re not sure or worried about what is not being blocked then contact your network and ask – they’re usually very helpful!

…followed by the actual devices

Next stop: Devices! With even more kids owning their own devices, whether it’s an iPad, hudl or a Samsung Galaxy Tab, you’ll want to have these set up with restrictions to secure the device keeping your children out of harm’s way.

Turn on Guided Access Mode on your iPhone or iPad

This allows you to restrict the entire device, allowing access to just one app – which you choose – even the home button is disabled. Head into your Settings area and look for the General menu item. In General, look for the Accessibility option. Tap Accessibility and look for the Learning area. Here, you’ll see a switch called “Guided Access”. Turn this to ON and set a memorable passcode. When you’re in an app, triple-press the home button, enter your code, and hey presto, you’re now locked into this app!

Check your Android device for a kids mode

Certain Android devices have a built-in kids mode. You can find out about this by doing a quick online search with your phone’s or tablet’s name + kids mode. As there are so many different devices and versions of Android, there’s no one route to this. Some manufacturers – like Samsung with their newer Galaxy devices – have done a great job of building an integrated kids mode. You can find this in the widgets section of your Samsung phone – check it out!

Enable Safe Search on your search engine

If your kids are a bit older, and able to type and search for themselves, consider using a kids-safe search engine such as safesearchkids.com, kidrex.org, or swiggle.org.uk. In any case, also set up search filters on your main search engine. This won’t be 100% accurate at all times, but it’s a good fall-back. How to do this will depend on your search engine:

Choose the right apps and websites

Last but certainly not least, we come down to the choice of apps and websites for your kids. Here are some of our top tips for finding the right content:

  1. On any apps, websites, or entertainment portals you already use, check whether there’s a kids mode or a child profile option (unless of course, they’re specifically made for kids)
  2. In the App Store and on Google Play, find the Kids category
  3. On both apps and websites, keep an eye out for markers of age appropriate content, such as a U Rating or Kidsafe Certificate
  4. Use resources such as com or CommonSenseMedia.org to find the best apps and websites for kids across different age ranges
  5. Ask your friends about which apps and websites their kids love

Finally – keep the conversation going!

The technical options you have to make your internet connection and devices safer are a great baseline, but they’re not 100% fool-proof.

As always, the most important thing you can do is to regularly bring up the topic in conversations with your kids to lay down boundaries. One tip: if there’s a specific website or app you feel worried about, broach the subject with this example and emphasise that you’re not angry, just worried.

All this will help your child understand the potential dangers of venturing online, but without scaring them – after all, the world of apps and websites can be such a wonderful place to learn and play!

Tips courtesy of: Nick Walters Founder and CEO of Hopster (www.hopster.tv), the UK’s favourite entertainment and education service for preschoolers.

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