Sometimes I look back and wonder how we ever coped before we had the internet. I use it all the time and so does my ten-year-old daughter. Other than the attraction of games (don’t you wish you were the person who came up with the idea for Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin?) and Skype, she uses it all the time for help with her homework and is so good at navigating her way around the internet that I no longer have to stand over her shoulder helping out. But maybe I should be.
It is alarmingly easy for kids to get access to dodgy websites (inadvertently or on purpose) if you don’t have safety measures in place. I heard recently about the case of a 12-year-old boy who was keen to buy his grandfather a birthday present, and knowing Grandpa liked board games, went on the internet and typed “adult games” into Google. He got a bit of a shock, and so did his mum when he showed her the results.
Chat rooms are another issue. It’s frighteningly easy for your child to start communicating with strangers online, and difficult to prove that they are who they claim to be.
Here are some guidelines to keeping your kids safe online:
- Lay down some rules about using the internet. Let your kids know that if they break them they won’t be able to go online for a certain period – and follow through on that if they do.
- Invest in filtering software that will block access to certain sites. With some you can have a blanket filter on all adult-related sites and illegal activity, or you can customise the filtering process, choosing to block certain categories such as pornography, instant messaging, chat, drugs and weapons. Software is also available that records details of all websites that have been visited, along with screenshots, email, chat and webcam activity.
- Keep the computer in a living area rather than their bedroom so you can keep an eye on what they are doing.
- Encourage them to talk to you about any websites they find that they have concerns about. Let them know they won’t get into trouble if they have inadvertently accessed a site that is dodgy.
- Make sure they know that they should immediately exit out of any site that makes them feel uncomfortable, and let you know it has happened.
- Tell them they have to check with you before giving out any information online, such as their email address or any other personal contact details.
- Take the time to sit down with your kids and have a look at the sites they’re visiting.
- Restrict their ability to buy apps or anything on iTunes by not saving your credit card details to your iTunes account. You can also disable “in-apps purchase” in your settings.
- Insist they let you know their log-ons and passwords, so you can see where they have been. Make it clear they shouldn’t share those with anyone, as they can then be easily hacked.
- Treat smartphones, iPads and iPods like computers. Remember the internet can also be accessed via gaming devices like Playstation and Wii, and some e-readers.
Be iSafe – insist on filtered
Kids love devices such as iPads, iPods and iPhones, but one drawback is unfiltered access to the internet. They come with Safari as the browser, and while it can be turned on or off, you can’t block certain sites.
However, there are alternative browsers you can download to filter sites. These include Mobicip Safe Browser, which is also available for Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy and Kindle Fire. With Mobicip you create an account that can be used by different people on all your mobile devices. Each logs in and you can set an age-appropriate level of filtering for each of them.
You have a passcode so that you can set restrictions – for example, switching off their access to YouTube and Safari.
Other features include detailed activity reports of internet usage for each user, so that you can see which websites have been visited and when. You can also see what websites the software has blocked.
For more information about keeping your kids safe online visit netsafe.org.nz.