“Online safety for kids is of paramount importance”.RocketNet
During our downtime we tend to spend more money and time on our luxuries. This includes unwinding with online entertainment. As parents, we may become a bit more relaxed about how much time our kids spend on the internet or in front of the TV because, let’s be honest, we are tired, they are on a break and we all deserve a break!
That is why online safety for your kids is of paramount importance. Please don’t assume that the websites they are visiting or the web browsers they are using to surf the web are always safe, because they’re not.
Just like you would keep an eye on your children and oversee their activities at a public playground, you also need to supervise their online engagements and interactions to manage the risk of exposure to inappropriate content, protect them from cyberbullying and ensure they don’t get preyed on by paedophiles or unwanted influencers. The reality is that the worldwide web is a much bigger playground than your local playground is and therefore there are many more inherent risks.
Extra precautions can be taken to ensure the online safety of your kids like using apps for parental control and by setting up online tools, like web browsers and search engines, correctly, to make sure your children can enjoy their screen time safely.
And before you go down ‘Guilty Lane’ about being overprotective and stuck-in-the-past, remember it’s not about not trusting your kids, it’s about not having a guarantee about trusting others online.
Having extra peace of mind while they enjoy themselves with their favourite Netflix show, or latest game developed by the latest app developer, will help you to have the break you need at this time.
The basic steps to ensure online safety for your kids.
- The most basic of steps that can be taken is to password protect your devices and entertainment apps. Make sure the password for your laptop, tablet, smartphone, smart TV, Apple TV and all the apps across all these devices has been set up with password protection, as a first precautionary step.
- Next, don’t use simple passwords like your name, ‘0000’, ‘password’ or ‘1234’. Make them hard for your kids, but make them memorable for you. Don’t use the same password on all the devices you have because if you need to change the password on one device, you will need to change the password on all of them.
- Lastly, use any safe settings features that your web browser may support. On the Google search engine for example you can activate a feature called SafeSearch. To use SafeSearch make sure your default search engine on your web browser is Google. Then enable the SafeSearch feature in the Google settings. The best option here is to use Google Chrome as your web browser and then use the safety features under settings. You can also try Google’s Family Link option.
For more information on creating strong passwords read our blog post ‘How to create a strong password’.
Only allow a limited time for online entertainment.
We not here to tell you how to parent but research has proven that too much time on new tech devices like tablets and smartphones can have a negative effect on you and your children. It isn’t always about what they are watching or playing; it is also about how much time they spend watching and playing.
Most devices, like the iphone, keep track of how much screen time one spends on their phone. Look under your settings options to find a screen time app or feature on your phone that may already be loaded by default.
Block websites you feel are too mature or inappropriate for your kids.
To block or filter inappropriate content, start by using the features already available on the operating system you are using. Microsoft and Apple for example have settings available that can be applied for each user profile you create on your devices.
For a more tailored and in-depth blocking and filtering experience you can use third-party services like NetNanny. NetNanny is a paid-for-service but has loads of features and is good value for money.
Remember that these types of products can give you information on accounts that they know your kid is using. If, for whatever reason, your kid creates a new account on a friend’s device these products won’t be able to track those accounts, so ensure you know what access your kids have at other homes if they aren’t with you.
You may need credentials, like your kids usernames and passwords, for these third party products to work. If you want to be in complete control of what is downloaded onto any given device then you can set the passwords on your kids device yourself or you can set up two-factor authentication.
For example, your kid wants to watch a movie on Google Movies, you can allow them to login to their Gmail account and browse the movies they want to watch but, when it comes to actually watching, they will need a pin or a security key from your cellphone before they can actually purchase the movie.
Can I monitor my kids phone?
If you want to go covert you can actually monitor all sorts of things on your kids devices like short messages (SMS), the social networks they frequent through their phone, their email and much more.
Some of the best known apps for this type of monitoring service are KidBridge (available on the app stores) and WebWatcher. Another cool app is Bark. Bark allows you to create ‘alert words’ like ‘alcohol’ so you will be alerted when these are the topics of discussion between your kid and their friends.
Some apps on your kids phone have built-in features of their own. YouTube has a feature which reminds you to take a break and also has age-restriction settings. TikTok has a feature that allows you to manage your kids account from your phone – they call this feature Digital Wellbeing.
Should my kid know I am monitoring their online activity?
Our answer would be yes. According to the law, and societal norms, you are responsible for protecting and providing for your children. As such, you are an ally to them and they should be reminded that you love them and want to protect them.
The first port-of-call when setting all of these features up is to have open and honest dialogue. Like driving a car for the first time there needs to be responsibility and accountability for actions.
The internet is a much a bigger place than the area they simply live in and there is a lot more to explore. It gives kids access to the same things that adults have access to without them having to show an ID book at the door or a driver’s license when being pulled over.
Teaching your kids responsible browsing is the foundation to all of this and the foundation should be based on trust.