Our children are growing up in an age of social media overload, but how can we as parents police it? Cyber safety has become a hot topic for parents, with research showing searches for ‘cyber safety’ and ‘cyber security’ have increased.
Top 12 Ways to Keep Your Children Safe Online
The need for parents to be vigilant about internet safety is well known, but as the world of social media is increasingly being accessed by children still in primary school, a whole new list of online issues has arisen.
Eager to find out how we can ensure that kids are safe online, the experts at OnBuy Smart Watches scoured major parenting forums, such as Mumsnet, Netmums and MadeForMums, to compile these top 12 tips on how to keep your children safe online.
Filter out explicit websites
Search engines for kids and filtering programmes can be effective in allowing parents to control what sites children can see. Netmums recommends Net Nanny – a software which can monitor online content, limit screen time and filter sites to protect your children.
Aj Kids and Kids Search are another top pick, whilst users on Mumsnet suggest censoring thread titles on the forum (keep Mumsnet forum names PG) so that children are not exposed to explicit words if they happen to look over at the computer screen.
Mumsnet users advise to send any incidents of online phishing to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as it’s spotted. Other advice includes either ignoring phishing emails/messages or changing your settings so that mail from that scam address goes straight to the deleted folder.
Stay safe on chat rooms
Mumsnet users suggest bans on Whatsapp and social media platforms (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter are all rated 13+) for younger children. However, parents are aware that there may be other chat room apps so suggest daily monitoring of your child’s phone. Regular checks can ensure that your children are staying safe on chat rooms and that nothing is missed.
Other users on the forum also suggest locking or removing the device overnight, so that your child gets adequate sleep and isn’t exposed to unsolicited and unmonitored messages when unaccompanied.
According to the Anti-Bullying Alliance, one in five schoolchildren in the UK has been a victim of some form of online abuse. Netmums highlight the importance of open communication with your child, in a bid to quickly identify when bullying might be taking place. Parents also suggest teaching your kids techniques for dealing with cyberbullies, such as muting chats and reporting bullies on social media.
If your child is a victim of cyberbullying from their peers, Mumsnet advises getting their school involved. This will escalate the situation and send a clear message to the bullies that their behaviour is unacceptable. It will also make your child feel more supported and safer in the school environment.
Block inappropriate instructional websites
Netmums refers to ‘inappropriate instructional websites’ as sites that promote step-by-step instructions for inappropriate topics such as alcohol. These can be accessed through other genuinely useful instructional sites, and so run the risk of being taken seriously by children.
OnBuy Tablets found advice on all of the reviewed parenting forums pointing towards blocking inappropriate websites, or downloading software that prevents pop-ups and inappropriate instructional sites from popping up.
Be aware of malware
Malware can appear through infected websites, bad software, music and movie sharing sites, as well as online video games. It can expose children to harmful or sensitive material. Consider downloading a firewall to prevent malware from popping up.
It is also recommended that you download a good virus software on your browser to find and remove spyware from your PC.
Prevent reckless behaviour
MadeforMums users have shared articles that suggest having open conversations with your children, and establishing yourself as a calm and non-judgemental friend.
By having this open dialogue, you will be aware of what is going on online and therefore more likely to prevent your child from acting recklessly. OnBuy Smart Watches also found that parents suggest turning off particular features, such as ‘in-app’ purchases.
Teach your children about scams
Mumsnet users suggest preemptively teaching your children to never open unknown links. Another preventative measure advised by MadeforMums is talking to your child about personal information and teaching them what can and can’t be shared online.
Mumsnet users suggest blocking spam emails or numbers, as well as teaching your kids to not respond or click on any unknown links. To prevent instances of spam further, Mumsnet users also suggest changing your passwords regularly so that all of your children’s accounts stay secure.
Improve wireless security
MadeforMums users suggest limiting particular web page access on your children’s devices. This can be done through the installation of a firewall or through blocking specific websites.
Use privacy settings
Protect personal information by using privacy settings. Make sure your kids know not to post things such as the name of their school or photos of them next a street sign. Turn off location services so they can’t be pin-pointed and become your child’s ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ to keep track of what they are posting and who is contacting them.
Monitor screen time
Monitor screen time and set agreements about the amount of time spent online. Agree a time when all devices will be switched off and lead by example. The most important thing is to talk to your child about social media. Explain your concerns and help them understand how to use it positively.
Often the most immediate threat children face comes from bullying and peer pressure. But what age should parents allow their child to access social media? According to Rose Bray, a project manager in child online safety at the NSPCC, that is a decision parents have to make themselves.
“You know your own child and you know when they are mature enough to have a phone and use social media,” she advises.
“Explain the risks to your child and make it very clear what they can and can’t access. For example, they can only send messages to friends and must have a private Instagram account so that only followers you approve of can see their posts.”