The need for online safety – for children especially – is now greater than ever before. Last month saw the much publicised hacking of more than 250,000 targeted Twitter accounts at the start of February. Recent news from America has also highlighted wide gaps in their military cyber security as the US tries to build their national internet security to fight new cyber threats. Safer Internet Day is now in its 10th year in 2013 and was celebrated worldwide on February 5. To coincide with this day which focuses on online rights and responsibilities, here is a guide for parents on how to keep your kids safe online.
It is very important that you inform your children about the dangers of online chat rooms. Talk to them about which sites they use and who they talk to. Encourage them to only speak to friends or friends of friends to avoid talking to strangers online. Look at the chat room sites that your child uses to find out about their built-in safety functions and how they can be contacted if needed. Teach your child about how to block someone if they do not already know and guide them through blocking features. It is important to write down any incriminating evidence if a problem does arise. Stay calm and do not simply delete these interactions as this could hinder a police investigation. Inform your children from a young age about the dangers of chat rooms when talking to them about sex and relationships to make sure that they know how to conduct themselves when chatting online.
Move your home computer to a communal area such as the kitchen or living room. By doing this, you can monitor your child’s activities and if they do have any questions regarding the internet, someone should be there to provide the answers. Get involved and make surfing the web a family activity. Play games with your child and ask them to show you their favourite websites. You can use dongles such as the UG007 mini PC to download more games and information which you and your child can share together. By doing this, you can understand how IT savvy your child is and if there are any problem areas which need to be addressed. Set aside some time for you to know more about online safety so you can be a better source of knowledge for your child. You may find out that there are better security providers and programs than your current computer systems.
It is predicted that nearly everyone will be able to connect to the internet via their mobile phones by 2020 and a staggering 52% of nine year olds already have a mobile phone. This means that cyber security guidelines should be stretched to mobiles. When buying a phone for your child, check if it is Bluetooth enabled and able to connect to the internet. Teach your child to switch off the Bluetooth function when they are not chatting with friends to avoid random and unexpected messages and to keep the information stored on the phone safe from strangers. Ensure that their mobile is also registered for a child user to prevent them from accessing adult content. Be aware that even with this service, many chat rooms may not be moderated. If your child is attending a party or is away from you for any reason, teach them to turn on their location services. Check that the phone has built in GPS and location settings when buying the phone rather than purchasing an independent app. Inform them of what cyber bullying is and how it is the same as other types of bullying. Make sure they know that they can come to you if they are receiving inappropriate calls and texts. Finally, insure that your child knows not to give their number to anyone they do not know.
Laura Comben is a writer from Brighton. Her interests include art, photography and social issues.