A guide to internet safety for parents

These days children are so tech savvy it’s almost frightening. Though they might be able to master the latest gadget within hours, they’re not always equipped to deal with the risks that are associated with them. In this guide you’ll find some pointers to ensure all the family can safely get the most out of today’s fast changing technology.

Why do you need to control what children access?

From finding inappropriate content to running up large bills downloading the latest app, you could find things spiral out of control quite quickly if you don’t set some parameters. Other worrying issues, such as cyber bullying, are hitting the headlines. If they’re not fully aware of their own or others’ online behaviour they could inadvertently become a target - even a perpetrator. And if you don’t ensure those safeguards your personal information could even be accessed.

So it’s important to ensure you have the right controls. Manufacturers are fully aware of parents’ concerns and include safeguards in their products but even so there’s a lot more you can do to educate them about the potential perils of technology.

Top internet safety tips for children

  • Be careful about what links you click on; in emails, social networks etc. If you don't recognise the link it could be spam and you should delete it.
  • Use strong, unique passwords on all your accounts and devices. Change passwords regularly and don’t share them with anyone except your parents. Always log out when you’ve finished.
  • Don’t download or make online purchases without checking with your parents first. Some so-called 'free' apps may incur hidden costs; or repeat fees, every time you access them. Only install apps from your device’s official app store.

 

  • Limit what you share online - use your privacy settings carefully - and don’t list your phone number, address or other private information.
  • Think before you post: what you put online could stay there forever. Only post photos or videos your parents approve of. Be kind: take things down if others ask.
  • If anything you see online or on your device upsets, frightens or worries you, tell your parent, teacher or another trusted adult right away.
  • Websites like ChildLine [opens another window] offer confidential help and advice.

 

Top internet safety tips for parents

  • The most important thing is to have an open and honest talk with your children about appropriate and healthy online and smartphone behaviour.
  • It’s never too early to set limits: on how long they can stay on the PC or games console and set parental controls on devices. Tell grandparents, babysitters and the parents of your children’s friends that you’ve done so.
  • Set aside time to share your thoughts and hear your children’s. As they get older this will get more important: discuss what they’re seeing online and don’t shy away from difficult topics, such as cyberbullying or sexting.
  • Talk to other parents about how they set parameters, especially age settings. Some social sites like Facebook and YouTube have a minimum sign-up age of 13.

 

  • Have a go yourself: sign up to Facebook, play on the Wii, download an app.
  • Be a positive role model: keep passwords safe and use only trusted software on your devices; show them how you secure your device.
  • Above all, strike a balance between respecting their integrity and privacy and ensuring they’re using technology sensibly. You don’t want to give into peer pressure, but at the same time you don’t want to appear too interfering.

How John Lewis can help

“All our in-store Partners are trained on how to manage parental controls, not only by the manufacturers of the products we sell but also on the various operating systems that are currently being used. It means we are able to provide a service for customers and families who are not necessarily savvy about all aspects of technology but want to ensure their children are as safe as possible while using the internet.”

Matt Leeser, Head of Buying for Communication Technology, John Lewis

 

If you’re still concerned there are a few gadgets and software packages specifically designed for families.

  • Kurio.  Loved by kids and trusted by parents, the Kurio is an Android device loaded with their favourite apps, games, videos and educational content. Wi-fi enabled, with an integrated camera, it’s easy to set different profiles according to age.
  • Norton security software.  Norton offers a range of security software. All include Norton™ Family, which helps protect your kids when they go online with their PCs or Android mobile devices.
  • McAfee. Offers similar safeguards, with Parental Controls that let you manage your children’s online usage.

 

How to secure your gadget

Smart TVs

  • Most Smart TVs have an integrated parental lock function so you can block certain apps or TV programmes. You usually activate it via 4-digit PIN code
  • Some broadcasting stations also have a Parental Guidance function which prevents children watching certain adult programmes.

Tablets

  • Most tablets with come with built-in parental control options of some kind.
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Surface tablets let you keep track of when and how your kids use the device - and you can set limits on which websites, apps and games they can access.
  • On the iPad, a 4-digit PIN you can do the same, and restrict which apps they can download.
  • Other tablets, such as the NOOK, let you set up different user profiles; for example, stop them from buying items or watching videos.
  • Many Apple and Android apps also provide a parental control service but it’s probably a good idea to use additional software for peace of mind.

Laptops

  • Apple: you can set up your child as a managed account with you as the manager, so you can limit access, approve email exchanges and even set time restrictions.
  • Windows: Family Safety is an integrated part of Windows. Install the software filter to monitor your kids; visit the Family Safety website to manage settings for every family member; use Parental Controls to set up more safety settings.

 

Network routers

  •  Look for a wireless router with parental controls. You can block unsafe content - sometimes even from home. Some can even protect connected devices such as games consoles or iPods.

Games consoles

  • Be aware of the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) age ratings system on games. Similar to film classification, they appear on each computer game, along with ‘descriptor’ icons showing why it has a particular age rating.
  • Devices like the Nintendo Wii or 3DS have wi-fi connections. Some games allow Friend Codes to be exchanged, which act like personal phone numbers and should only be shared with people they know
  • You can go into the Settings menu and activate the Parental Controls
  • With PlayStation 3 and PSP you should register with the online network to set up automatic parental controls. Set your children up as Sub Accounts, stating their correct age, and the controls will be put in place automatically.
  • For the Xbox 360 the same online options apply with Xbox LIVE. You can even restrict the amount of time they can play on the console.

Smartphones

  • When you sign them up to a mobile contract make them aware about the contract’s data allowance - it’ll cost you if they exceed it
  • All mobile networks provide parental controls so check they’ve been switched on
  • If they’re using your home wireless broadband, talk to your service provider about filtering the internet
  • Agree how they can use their smartphone; from switching it off at night to setting a limit on how much they can spend on apps
  • Get them to use the PIN code to lock their phone - and never share it
  • On an iPhone go into Settings>General>Restrictions>Enable Restrictions to set constraints
  • On BlackBerry devices, be aware of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). This instant free messaging between BlackBerry handsets includes a broadcast function that can distribute messages or images almost instantaneously. Ensure your child is aware of this: show them how to block a contact and to store conversation history; be careful about sharing their unique 8 digit PIN (the BlackBerry equivalent of a phone number).

 

More information

For more advice about helping children stay safe online visit http://www.saferinternet.org.uk [opens new window] or http://www.childnet.com [opens new window].