Over the past 10 years, the internet has developed to such an extent that some parents and carers feel their knowledge of how to make laptops, smartphones, tablets and even games consoles safe for their children is just not good enough anymore.
If you feel this way, we don’t blame you. Apps get updated on a daily basis, and when these updates contain changes such as adjustments to privacy policies, new technologies to allow precise locations to be tracked, and ways to broadcast a ‘livestream’ to the internet at just the touch of a button, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the pace of it all.
Despite its rapid development, however, it is important to remember that for every negative opinion the internet generates, there is a positive benefit to outweigh it. We are lucky to live in a world, for example, where our children can interact with like-minded kids from around the world on a daily basis, and form valuable friendships with these individuals – some of whom may go on to become lifelong friends.
Children can learn a lot from the internet; it is as educational as it is entertaining for them.
But that isn’t to say the internet exists only for children. The opposite is true, in fact: the internet is built for adults, and some online content can be explicit and damaging for a child to see. Undoubtedly, it would be irresponsible of us to expose our children to potential harm without taking precautionary measures to keep them safe online.
So, what can we do to promote online safety and ensure our children stay out of harm’s way when browsing the web?
There are countless tools and methods to utilise when it comes to e-safety, and we’ve compiled just a few of the most useful tips for keeping children safe online.
1. Teach your kids to choose safe passwords and keep them private
It goes without saying that a password should be difficult for anyone else to guess. Dates of birth, children’s names, and favourite colours are all bad choices. The strongest password is one that includes a mixture of numbers, lower-case and upper-case letters, and special characters.
It’s good practice to get your kids into the habit of creating strong passwords. It’s also advisable to teach them not to share their password with anyone, as there are a number of dangers that can occur when another person has access to your online accounts.
Children should be taught to treat their passwords like their biggest secret: they shouldn’t be comfortable sharing it with anyone else, but in some circumstances it might be okay to tell Mum or Dad!
2. Deactivate location settings on smartphones and tablets
While location settings may be useful for navigation apps such as Google Maps, having them enabled constantly allows other apps such as Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter to know your location at all times.
Location services on social media can be used for a variety of purposes, from targeted advertisements to collecting user data, but more recently, app updates such as the ‘Snap Maps’ feature on Snapchat, or livestream tools like Facebook Live, have opened up a window of opportunity for location services to be used in a much more sinister context.
To protect your children, teach them how to disable location services in the settings on their smartphone or tablet – if you’re unsure how to do this, a quick Google search will show you how. More information about the damaging effects of location services within Snap Maps can be found in our blog post.
3. Discuss privacy settings with children and review them on a regular basis
It is common for popular social media apps like Instagram and Twitter to alert users when they update their privacy settings. However, it is not always the case that children – or, indeed, adults – will take the time to properly read and review each update before accepting the terms and conditions.
It is worthwhile to explain the purpose of privacy settings to your children, and make sure they understand why these are a necessary feature of social media. Generally speaking, a child’s profile should be kept private, in such a way that only the people they have accepted as “friends” can view the content they post, and that their profiles cannot be accessed by just anyone.
A good way to highlight the importance of online privacy is to use an example such as the photos your children post. If their accounts are private, it is unlikely that their photos will be duplicated and used on fake accounts, but if their profile, personal information, and all of their posts are visible to everyone, they open themselves up to the risk of being targeted by predators and malicious individuals. These people can effectively clone profiles and pose as your children online.
Ask your children to think about the many consequences of identity theft during your discussion about online privacy. (This would also be an appropriate time to introduce the topic of not accepting friend requests from people you do not know or trust outside of the internet…)
Keep the conversation going!
These e-safety tips are hugely important, but they form only a small part of a long list of tips for keeping children safe online.
Online safety should be an ongoing conversation at home and in school, and as parents and professionals, it is our duty to maintain the discussion to ensure our children are leading their safest possible online life, avoiding consequences but reaping the many benefits and opportunities the internet has to offer.
For further information about online safety, we provide an in-depth overview in our e-Safety Training course, a verifiable online training course that can be taken in just 1-2 hours, and can be paused and restarted to suit busy schedules. A great tool for schools and organisations wanting to enhance their e-safety message, it covers important topics such as online risks to children and adults, anti-radicalisation, social media, online gaming, and how to deal with online safety incidents. The content has been specifically developed to meet the online safety learning outcomes required by Ofsted and equivalent inspecting bodies. To find out more, please click here.