When your kids take more interest in accessing the internet, and are doing so more often, talk to them about what they are reading, watching and who they are communicating with online – and be sure to keep this conversation going as they spend more time online, including what apps and websites they visit so you can make sure they’re safe yourself. This is also a good opportunity to check what knowledge your child may already have about staying safe online, and where they learnt this to check they have the correct information. It’s also important to talk to your kids about how they behave online too, such as how they interact with other people and if they know what is ok or not ok to share online.
If your child uses social networks, such as Instagram or TikTok, you should make sure they’re aware of how to be safe in these platforms, and check their privacy settings. You should also check that they know how to report inappropriate and offensive posts and comments, and how to block people, to help with avoiding negative behaviour or online bullying on these platforms.
Keep screens where you can see them
Particularly for younger children, it’s important to monitor their time online – if unsupervised, children could stumble accross inappropriate content. To make this easier, keep devices in a busy part of your home such as the kitchen or living room so you can keep an eye on your children while they’re using them, and so you can be there to answer any questions they have. If your children’s devices are portable such as a phone, tablet or laptop, you can agree rules to only use them in these areas, and for a set amount of time. If you can, set up any shared PCs or your child’s PC in are shared space you spend the most time in as a family.
Make sure you know your parental controls
We cant be aware of what our kids are doing online 24/7, so it’s key to ensure you know all about parental controls, and how to set up the ones you need. Parental controls and filters can be used on your home internet, devices, phone networks and even online services such as Netflix and YouTube.
Know who your children’s online friends are
As adults, we know that sometimes people online are not who they say they are and the dangers surrounding this, but children and young people can often be naive about who they are talking to. If your child has online friends that they’ve met through social platforms or online games, make sure to make this a part of your conversation with your child about being safe online.
Keep your childrens location private
Apps, networks, browsers and devices all have geo-tagging and location features that can make your location public, whether you’re sharing your location intentionally, or using a location feature to search for the nearest shop, this setting should always be turned off when you’re not using it for privacy and safety – you can turn this off on your child’s device in the main location settings just to be sure, or turn off the location permissions for each app individually.
Some apps may also ask for permissions to your child’s camera, photos and microphone. If it’s not an app that requires these features of your device, such as Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok, you should make sure that these permissions are turned off. For any app, you can also ensure that these features are only accessible when the app is in use, so the app cannot use your camera or microphone when it’s not being used. It’s important to be cautious around access to these features as they could be accessed by a third party if there is an issue with the security of the app they are being used with, or the app itself could be accessing your camera or microphone at any time.
Keep track of screen time
It’s very important to keep track of the amount of time your child is spending online, to avoid issues such as tiredness and eye damage from too much screen time, and to keep a healthy balance of online and offline activites. There are a few methods that could be used to help manage the time your child spends on their online devices
Setting time limits or using time limiting tools availble on your device – for example on iPhone time limits can be set per app using the screentime settings, to restrict the use of specific apps after they have been used for a specified amount of time each day.
- Designating weekly and daily times to use the internet – such as for one hour a night and after any homework has been completed
- Removing portable devices from your child’s bedroom at night
Choose age appropriate games and apps
There’s thousands of games and apps out there to keep your child occupied, as well as apps that can help with learning new skills or with school work. Most app stores on devices such as phones and tablets including the Apple App Store, Google Play and the Windows Store have age ratings to make it easier for you to choose suitable games – you should also check for content descriptions to see if the game contains content such as violence or drugs, and you should also be aware of in-app purchase options to make sure your child can make any unwanted purchases.
If your child is playing on their own gaming PC or gaming laptop, make sure you monitor and discuss with them what games they are playing or want to purchase.
To avoid these purchases you should turn off in-app purchases and check that your store account has a password set – this will also help stop your child from being able to purchase any non-age appropriate games or apps if using their devices unsupervised.
Enjoy going online together
Finally, the easiest way to make sure your child is safe when they’re online is to explore the online world together! If your child is interested in a new game or app, get to know how it works together as a family, and explore the safety settings and features.
A long as precautionary steps are taken for safety such as parental controls, screen time management and conversations around dangers online, your child can have a great time exploring the huge variety of content available in the online world, whether they’re gaming with their friends or developing new skills. I’m important to keep communication with your child open about their time spent online and ensure they know they can always come to you with any questions or concerns about behaviors or problems they may have encountered.