How to keep your children safe online

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How old should a child be in order to receive a mobile phone? The luddite and father in me thinks 16, but I clearly need to get with the times!

A few years ago, I was shocked to hear that 62 per cent of under 12’s had a mobile phone. However, with the developments of tablet computers and smartphones this continues to grow quickly. In 2014, OFCOm reported that 71 per cent of children between five and 15 years old have access to a table PC in the home. For children between eight and 11, this was actually higher at 75 per cent.

When you add home computers and laptops into the mix and you are looking at over 90 per cent of all children between five and 15 years old now have access to the internet. So the question parents may ask themselves is ‘How do I keep my child safe online?’ Here are some things you can do to reduce the risks online for your children, regardless of how they access the internet.

Talk to your child

Set out some guidelines early including which websites they can access, how long they are able to be online each day and of course explain why it’s important you are open with each other. You can monitor sites that your child has visited by looking at the browsing history on the tablet or PC.

Adjust the computer and internet access settings

If you wish to have a more light touch approach rather than monitoring exactly what your child has been viewing online, consider using the Internet Service Providers’ (ISP) protection settings. If your child attempts to access either adult material or sites that are known to have inappropriate content, it will be blocked. There are some sites such as YouTube which can prove problematic, particularly when the original video has finished and a new (unsearched for) video is automatically launched. If you use a PC or laptop, you can create a profile, just for your child. This way they have age appropriate access and can’t alter all your work email or files.

Grooming

Lots of sites that are appropriate for children now carry an instant notification button to alert the authorities about potential internet users who may be trying to inappropriately contact children. It is operated by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). Make sure you discuss this with your children, particularly if 10 years of age or older

Cyberbullying

This is a growing problem and the anonymous nature means it can be quite scary for children. Be sure to talk with them about what to do should this happen. Stay calm and you can get some great tips from nspcc.org.uk or getsafeonline.org on how best to handle this. There is a good reason that Facebook and other social media networks have a minimum age of 13, so don’t be pressured in to getting online too soon. It’s also worth noting that most children will never have any issues online, but with a little extra care, you can reduce the risks further