Although there are a myriad of different technical restrictions you can place upon children accessing the web, it really is incumbent on parents to install in their children a high level of awareness. Below I have summarised the main points that need to be explained and reiterated…
One of the best methods to reduce the dangers posed from children browsing the web is to filter or block unsuitable content. One way this can be achieved is by using child friendly web browsers such as Kiddle, Zoodles or Kidoz. These are especially suitable for younger children. However, once kids get older they will require something different which is when it’s appropriate to use an orthodox browser such as Chrome, Firefox etc (but with a content filtering system).
Below are some examples of the most common content filtering software packages…
There is a longer list of these content filtering systems here
As well as browser safety, ISP’s also provide the ability to filter the type of content that can be accessed at home. You can find a full list of ISP content filtering services here.
Facebook – Facebooks’ terms and conditions state that a user must be aged at least 13 years old to register and do provide the ability for parents to have an account deleted if a child under this age has registered themselves. However, it is worth noting there is no mechanism for Facebook to verify a person’s age other than asking a user to confirm their age when registering.
For legimiate users aged 13 or above there are several steps parents can take to help protect their teenagers when using the platform. These include insisting they give you their email and password login, setting up 2-step verification (using your mobile phone), implementing the highest level of privacy settings and also periodically checking your teeangers friend list. Finally, you should also be aware of the Facebook messenger service which is a separate app on mobile devices. I recommend parents explore the dedicated messenger kids app for younger children.
Twitter – As with Facebook, users of Twitter must be aged 13 or above. Some of the protection measures you can put in place (aside from knowing your child login credentials) is to make sure they set their profile as private, which means no one can see their activity unless the they accept them as a new follower. There is also the option to mute words or hashtags you deem inappropriate as well as the ability to block users. As is the case with using Facebook, we strongly recommend you setup 2-factor authentication. There is a more extensive list of privacy settings here which some parents may find useful.
Snapchat – Snapchat is one of the most popular platforms with younger people and so should be paid particular close attention to. The platform allows users to send messages and pictures (called snaps) that can be viewed for a short period of time before they are deleted. However users can take a screenshot on their phone, although the person sending the ‘snap’ does get a notified when this happens. Other things to be wary of are snap maps, which allow each user to see other users physical location (although this function can be disabled). As with most social media platforms, you have to be 13 or above to join and there is also the same ability for parents to request an account for deletion if a child under this age decides to register. For a really great write up on Snapchat safety follow this link.
Instagram – Instagram is a photo sharing platform where users can upload their favourite photos, such as selfies etc. As with the afforementioned platforms, users must be 13 or above to register. Again, there is the ability for users to set their profile as private, so only their connections can see their activity, which I recommend you tell your child to implement. Children should also avoid uploading any photos that disclose their location or the school they attend. It’s also worth noting there is a location setting, which should also be disabled. Check out this list for more Instagram safety tips
Tiktok – Tiktok is a video sharing platform and is the the newest kid of the block in terms of social media platforms. As with Snapchat the majority of Tiktok’s user base is under 24. You have to be at least 13 years old to join and parents can request deletion of accounts from users under that age here. If you would like a full rundown of the parental safety features available on Tiktok, check out this link.
One of the banes of managing internet usage by children and younger people is that most of it is done on mobile devices, such as phones and tablets. This means you often cannot always physically see what they are upto. For this reason it’s important that you also take appropriate steps to manage the security and privacy on each device they are using. For advice on how to manage the security of the most popular mobile manufacturers check out these guides for Apple, Samsung, Windows and Android.
In addition to these security measures there are also specific apps which allow you to remotely control your child’s phone. This can be partcularly useful in managing which apps they download, how long they’re spending on a device as well as monitoring their physical location.
Finally, aside from the privacy settings it is prudent to limit the amount of screen time your child is exposed to as this can have a number of negative effects on their health and well being. This can either be achieved by agreeing with with your child on how long they can spend on a device each day or if needed, can be done using one of the afforementioned parental apps.
Kids converse online in a myriad of abbreviations and emoji’s that some parents may find utterly bewildering. However it is prudent to start to learn what some of these abbreviations mean, not least because it will help to alert you to any unsavoury or unsafe behaviour that may be taking place.
One of the more harmless ones is LOL (Laugh out Loud) but there are in fact hundreds more so check out this list of common abbreviations below as well as this teen specific list.
This is not an area I had considered until I discovered my child had a chat window open in the game Roblox. Although the game does ask for a user to confirm their age when they sign up (and has parental controls) its worth being aware of in-game chat rooms as this is one potential area that some parents may overlook.
My advice would be that you research each game before you allow your child to download it, however tedious this maybe. This article has a good write up and includes the most popular games which have chat facilities in them, whilst this article from internetmatters.org offers advice on how to deal with in-game chat rooms. Finally I would also recommend you do spot checks perdiocally to see who they are talking to when playing games online.
Bullying and trolling can come in many guises online. One person’s version of innocent teasing can be another person’s serious bullying incident. Unlike physical bullying, online bullying can be harder to detect and manage. Below are some practical steps you can take in this area.
If you suspect your child is being bullied or trolled online you should immediately try and deal with the issue head on. This may involve speaking to the school, other parents, website owners and in some serious cases the police. Procrastinating or assuming the issue will resolve itself must be avoided to avoid the situation escalating.
|National Bullying Helpline||A voluntary run organisation who provide Information and advice for adults and children affected by bullying|
|Internet Matters||Plethora of resources for those affected by bullying from InternetMatters.org|
|Bullying.co.uk||Clear and comprehensive definition of Cyberbullying|
|NSPCC||NSPCC advice on bullying|
|KidsHealth||KidsHealth.org information on Cyberbullying|
|HelpGuide.org||Tips and advice on how to deal with bullying and Cyberbulling|
|Childmind.org||Step by step guide to help parents deal with Cyberbulling|
|Parents.com||How to Stop Cyberbullying: 18 Tips for Parents and Kids|