While the internet is a formidable tool which enables us to share information with others, be entertained and to learn about the world, it has its downsides. The very nature of the internet means that anyone can use it and unfortunately this includes the less savoury people in society.
The use of the internet can be a terrific way to open childrens eyes to the world in a way no previous generation has experienced. Whether your child is using the home computer or mobile broadband on a laptop, it is vitally important that parents are aware of those people taking advantage of innocent and naïve web users.
Websites and Images
Children need to be protected from viewing images which are unsuitable for them. Even the most ardent opponent of censorship would accept that the internet holds many images and information which they wouldn’t want their children viewing.
Buying or downloading products or software online has been made very simple. Many online shops hold your card details for next time which means all your children need is a password to enter a site and they may then inadvertently purchase goods. There are also software companies who try to encourage users to download (and pay for) software that they don’t require. Children are likely to fall into this trap as they may not realise a purchase will be made by just clicking the button.
Bullying and Chat Rooms
The internet has created an opportunity for anonymity like no other medium before it. Children can neither see nor hear the person communicating with them online, which leaves them highly vulnerable to manipulation or cyber-bullying.
Children don’t expect that anyone is going to try and harm their computer (why would they?), which means that they are unlikely to imagine the viruses that lurk behind some websites. Children may well lack the instinct adults possess about whether a site appears safe or not. Their natural curiosity may also cause them to click their way to downloading a virus that renders the family computer unusable.
Protecting Your Children
Using parental controls is one of the most basic ways to prevent a child from browsing unsuitable websites. Parental controls generally block inappropriate sites, leaving children to safely surf the internet. You can also manually block social-networking sites or anything else you don’t wish your children to see. You must remember to also apply controls to any gadgets which can use Wi-Fi such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets.
However, don’t just rely on setting controls on the computer. You should also take an interest in what your child is doing on the internet and keep an eye on the kind of websites they are visiting.
Google SafeSearch is a child-friendly search engine which leaves them free to safely browse the internet. For many households this will be the only search engine you need.
These need to be set for social-networking sites as well as on the computer itself. A high privacy setting will stop your password being automatically entered on a site, so be sure to keep your passwords safe. If your child has a Facebook account then make sure only friends can see what is on it, and that strangers cannot sending messages or friend requests.
Protect your computer using an all-in-one anti-virus, firewall and security software package. This means that if your child does inadvertently click on the wrong button the package will protect your computer.
Educate your Kids
Just as our parents warned us about chatting to strangers and walking home alone, we need to teach our kids about online safety. Children have to grasp the importance of not giving out any personal data, not automatically trusting other internet users and how to avoid viruses.
Children need to be able to use the internet and it’s an essential aspect of their education as the world becomes more reliant on computers. But while you want your children to be technologically savvy, the major concern for any parent is that their children are safe.
Once you have understood the biggest threats, such as children viewing unsuitable websites, cyber-bullying, harassment and viruses, you can work towards preventing any incidence of these in the first place. Luckily, there are many filters and settings available to help you with this. The most valuable thing you can do, however, is to teach your kids some general principles about online safety.