Protecting your family from online threats and the dark side of the web may seem like a daunting task but you don’t need to pull your hair out just yet.
1. Keep tabs on their social media
At some point, your child is going to want to branch out into social media so you need to know your Facebooks from your Snapchats and open your own accounts to get familiar with the platforms. You can’t protect your child if you don’t understand the sites they are on so keep updated.
If you like, you can befriend or follow them to see what they’re doing. They might not be too excited by this development but they’ll certainly be less likely to post anything that might cause trouble. Check in on them every now and again, but don’t turn into one of those parents who constantly likes and comments on their kids’ social accounts or they might block or mute you.
Most teenagers just don’t want their mum or dad constantly commenting on their posts. On the darker side of things, it isn’t a good idea to use social media to humiliate your child as this can cause more problems than it solves.
If you’ve got a young teenager or child who is insistent or getting their own social media accounts, you can request that they give you their password in case you need to revoke their access or remove something they’ve posted. For older teenagers, a measure of trust goes a long way but don’t be afraid to occasionally check in.
2. Learn about privacy and parental settings
The mere suggestion of parental filters might send your child into a panic, but sit them down and discuss it with them. While you can go behind their back, honesty is the best policy. Your child may have no intentions of accessing inappropriate content, but parental filters are useful for limiting time spent online and for making sure nothing inappropriate accidentally slips through.
Settings vary from device to device, but a quick search on Google should give you the info you need to get parental filters and control settings running.
Explain to your kids that you’re introducing these restrictions in order to keep them safe. The web can be a nasty place at times so it’s no harm to keep them restricted until they are old enough to understand.
If your child is signed up to any social media networks, make sure that you have checked their privacy and location settings too. Children often have no concept of the danger posed by open location and privacy settings so it’s up to you to make sure they are protected or aren’t accidentally broadcasting to the world that there’s no one at home.
3. Lay down the law
You need to establish clear boundaries with your children about what is and isn’t acceptable when they are online. Let them know that you will be monitoring their internet usage and checking what they are doing online so they know where they stand.
For kids starting out with the internet, you can move the family computer into the living room or make an account for them on your computer so you can keep an eye on what they’re doing.
Make it clear that internet access is a privilege and one that you are prepared to withdraw if they purposefully do something that’s against your ground rules.
4. Set your own rules
The minimum age for many social media sites is 13 but this doesn’t mean you have to let them have an account as soon as they turn 13. Facebook may make the rules for its site but you set the rules in your home.
Don’t feel pressured to let your child create a social media account if you think that they’re not ready. They may be a bit annoyed at their overprotective parent but they’ll get over it!
Social media sites are not always social places so judge for yourself whether a particular site is something that you want your child to be exposed to.
5. Teach them that the internet is forever
The internet may be one of mankind’s greatest inventions but it does have a dark side.
They need to know that what they post can last forever and that it can be twisted or amplified by other people. Once a photo or post goes up online, they no longer own it and no one knows where it could actually end up. For example, an American artist steals and sells photos from other user’s Instagram accounts.
While it’s not exactly legal, it’s not illegal. Copyright law around social media is complicated, so talk to your kids about the dangers of sharing photos. Someone your child might not even know could download the photo and edit or repurpose it for something else entirely.
6. Back up your important files
You may have gone your entire life without getting a virus but don’t assume that this makes you bulletproof. Your kids might be trigger-happy and click on pop-ups or download the wrong thing and end up bringing all kinds of malware to your computer.
A good practice is to regularly back up any important files just in case something goes wrong. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a cyberattack that does the damage. An accidentally deleted folder can be just as devastating if it wipes out ten years of treasured family photos.
7. Talk to your children about the threats
Teach your kids about the dangers that are out there. You don’t have to terrify them with stories of online bogeymen but they need to be aware of the risks.
· This means only talking to people they know, guarding their passwords, and never posting any identifying information or inappropriate photos online. Same goes for posting selfies: no including obvious markers like house numbers or signposts.
· Other essentials include never arranging face-to-face meetings with people they meet online, unless you have confirmed the person’s identity. Explain to them that people are not always who they claim to be on the internet and make sure that they understand the potential risks.
· The chances are that even young children know about illegal downloading or torrenting. They will be tempted to get their favourite cartoon, movie or music so you need to point out the dangers of downloading files from strangers. A bad download could lead to all manner of viruses and malware.
Touch on all the above and you’ll have covered the bases.
8. Make gaming safe
The days of kids playing Sonic the Hedgehog on their own are a thing of the past and online gaming is now an established part of gaming culture.
Online gaming can have a dark side with competitiveness and the will to win sometimes encouraging trash talk or online abuse. Make sure they know what to do if they encounter any harassment or bullying while playing games online. You may also want to establish firm punishments if you find your own child engaging in this sort of behaviour.
You might not think he’d ever shout mean things at another player, but losing on the internet can be heated so if he starts swearing and shouting at the opponent, nip the behaviour right in the bud with a short ban.
Online games can be totally safe but there is no harm in popping in on your kids every now and again to make sure they’re not getting up to anything they shouldn’t be.
9. Educate yourself
It can be hard to tell your child what to look out for if you’re completely up-to-speed yourself. While you might know the basics, educating yourself is a key way to keep you and your family safe. The more you know, the more you’ll be positioned to avoid any of the common mistakes that internet users make.
Online threats change all the time so it pays to follow the news and to stay alert to the newest dangers.
10. Invest in virus protection software
One of the simplest ways to protect your family is to install online security software so that you’re protected against viruses, spyware and other malware. It’s also a cheaper alternative than getting your computer fixed if one of your children picks up a nasty virus on their online travels.
Online security is an ever-evolving area and companies are constantly updating their software to counteract the latest threats -so make sure your online protection is always up-to-date!