The internet is an amazing place that allows you to learn a new skill or language, pick up an exciting hobby, discover new films and music, or simply keep in touch with family members and friends all over the world. If they’re not using it already, it’s inevitable that one day your own children will ask to start using the internet.
How old they are when you let them browse the internet for the first time is your own choice, but it’s absolutely essential that before they start using it, both you and your children are fully aware of the risks that are out there. It’s only by knowing what these risks are that you can make sure adequate measures are put in place to protect them.
Thankfully, there are lots of practical steps you can take to protect your children when they’re using the internet. Many of the most popular websites and platforms have children protection tools that have been created to protect vulnerable users.
However, despite every parent’s intentions to keep their children safe, you can never guarantee they’ll be fully protected. That said, you should be able to ensure that the various risks that are posed to your children always remain risks and never become problems, as long as you have the right protective measures in place. Here are some of the most effective ways of keeping your children safe online.
Keep Social Media Platforms Private
There are some sick individuals out there and no platform is ever safe from online predators. When it comes to social media platforms, there are two important things to bear in mind. The first is that your child(ren) shouldn’t even be using popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter if they’re not 13 years old. All of these platforms require users to register and provide their age before using them.
The second thing to bear in mind, and arguably the most important, is that social media platforms have been created as a way for people to discover not just friends, but strangers too. As such, when you first create your account, a number of things including your profile image, location, and other personal information you register is publicly visible.
You should teach your children to never accept a friend invite from anyone they don’t know in real life. You should also take the time to sit down with them and have a proper conversation about the visibility of the information they share online and the implications of posting certain content.
We’d always recommend going into your child’s privacy settings on their social media accounts and making sure their information is set to private. This will limit how often their profile appears in search results and what kind of information the general public can see if they’re not friends with your child online.
Set Up Parental Controls
Parental controls are there to help you block or filter inappropriate content, as well as ensure your children aren’t able to purchase things online. They can also help you restrict how long your children can use a device for and what kind of content they can access.
Every device, platform, and service has its own unique parental controls, so setting these up will be different depending on whether you’re doing it on a video game console such as the Nintendo Switch or mobile phone.
We’d strongly advise setting up parental controls on search engines such as Google to limit the discovery of explicit content, and on mobile phones, which will help you check your child’s location settings and the kind of information they’re transferring.
It’s important to enforce rules regarding the use of devices with your children. Despite how much they might disagree with it, you’re the boss and in control of what they can and can’t do on their devices. You’re paying for them, after all! For a better idea of what’s possible with parental controls, you can visit the NSPCC website here.
Beware of ‘Random’ Chat Rooms
The internet gets a lot of praise for allowing us to connect to anyone anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, this also brings with it a lot of risks. Online chat rooms and video rooms that randomly connect you to strangers are growing in popularity, but they’re also a haven for predators.
Some predators actually set up a fake website that plays video footage of someone else, making it possible for them to interact with vulnerable people under the disguise of someone that’s the same age as them.
Some of the most popular random chat websites are Omegle, DirtyRoulette, ChatHub, and Chat Roulette. You may wish to contact your ISP and have them ban access to these websites completely.
Set Up a VPN
A VPN is a virtual private network that encrypts the information your computer is sharing online, providing a safer and more secure way of browsing the internet. Why is this important? Everything you do online leaves an online footprint, visible not only to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) but criminals too.
A VPN makes it far more difficult for hackers to steal your personal information, making it less likely that your children will fall victim to hacking attempts online. All of this might sound complicated, but using a VPN couldn’t be any easier.
You can even buy VPN-enabled routers that allow you to instantly connect multiple devices in your home to private servers all over the world.
Better still, using a VPN lets you bypass the geo-blocks that popular streaming websites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime use, meaning you can access films and TV shows from all over the world you wouldn’t normally be able to view. You can check our homepage here for a rundown on the best VPNs to protect you.
The internet, while undoubtedly a useful tool, isn’t without its risks. Before your children start using the internet, it’s important to sit down with them and have a frank discussion about the dangers that are out there, what you expect from their online behavior, and also what tools you’ll be using to monitor and protect them online. We hope the methods of protecting your children that we’ve listed above are useful.