When I was a child growing up, my parents worried whenever I went to play outdoors with friends. I grew up in an era where the backdoor was kept unlocked and I was allowed to roam around on my bike to nearby fields. Sometimes, I was gone for hours, but my rumbling tummy always brought me home around dinner time.
Once indoors, my parents could relax, safe in the knowledge I was home and unharmed.
Forward 27 years, and the reality is, even when your children are at home, behind locked doors, there are dangers lurking from the outside world… With smart phones and tablets the norm in the majority of UK households, the internet and all it can offer can be easily accessed by even the youngest of kids. My son, who’s only five, already knows how to get onto YouTube – kids are sophisticated in the way they use online apps and the internet.
And when you look at frightening statistics such as Childline last year had to deal with over 11,000 calls from kids who had online issues; that one in three children have been a victim of cyber bullying; and that one in four children have seen porn by the age of 12, it makes for sober reading.
And you’d be surprised how lax we get when we do go on holiday. Have you ever just logged onto a public Wi-Fi service or used a free network when you pick up a signal? I have, on numerous occasions… I’ve even paid for Wi-Fi, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the network is secure.
Devices when you travel are par of the course. We are a generation unable to switch off, while long journeys also mean we need to entertain the kids. But how do you know your private information is safe or that your software won’t be open to viruses or phishing scams? Logging on – anywhere in the world – is so natural that sometimes we can forget how vulnerable we are to security threats.
So what can be done to prevent social media bingeing and disturbing content reaching our kids? Or for nasty hackers getting hold our our private information? Lots actually – and here are some simple ways…
Start a discussion…
• About online safety – and the earlier the better. By explaining to your kids that the online world parallels the real world you can give them a better understanding of the possible risks – such as internet security, passwords and search terms that might bring up unsavoury content which could upset them; and meeting strangers online who might not be very nice…
• Make them aware that if they wouldn’t do something in real life, then the shouldn’t do it online, either, as the consequences would be the same. For instance, not taking a ‘gift’ from a stranger, or being involved in hurtful behaviour.
• And for older kids and teens, that whatever they post on social media, is there to stay forever and cannot be undone. As well as the repercussions of oversharing personal information. Help them go through their privacy settings, and make up memorable passwords, and to encourage them to talk if something or someone has upset them. Also insist that they befriend you on all their social media apps. If they have to think twice about posting something mum or dad wouldn’t be happy about, then it’s probably not fit for the public domain.
No going it alone…
Being present while your children are online is a good way of keeping them in check – albeit from a distance. Meanwhile, keeping an eye on your kid’s mobile devices every now and then is a good way of seeing what apps might be unsuitable if they suddenly crop up.
Put yourself in control
There are many ways that you can stay in control of your kids’ online time without being the fun police. From your broadband provider to the devices themselves, you can restrict certain websites, or content from being streamed – and even add watershed times to particular films and programmes.
Another way to fully protect all your devices is to purchase extra security, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud. Their family package can cover up to 20 devices and you can set up alerts for all your children’s accounts and monitor and limit their online activity. It automatically senses any imminent threats and danger.
You may recall I admitted to using unsecure Wi-Fi on some occasions while travelling, well the Kaspersky Security Cloud offers a temporary virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt all internet data sent and received on a device when it is switched on and will protect your family wherever they are, and this includes dodgy Wi-Fi networks abroad.
What do other bloggers think about the subject?
A Modern Mother
‘When your kids get older (mine are between 12-15) it gets harder to regulate what they do, even with apps,’ says Susanna. ‘They always figure out a way around it – where there is a will there is a way. We taught the girls smart strategies from the beginning, when they were young and would still listen to you (after 10 forget it, they think their friends know more than you do!) We did an online “contract” with them when, and they had to write an essay on internet security before they were allowed on social media.’
Pigeon Pair and Me
Nell says: ‘I’d never let my children (5 and 7) play on a tablet without an app to filter out dodgy content – and to restrict their playing time. I need help with remembering to tell them their time’s up, though!’
One Tiny Leap
‘I found the fire tablet great for this as it fully blocks the normal internet in a child’s profile, with added time limits etc,’ says Maria. ‘I’d also never let him have Snapchat, music.ly and others without me having access to it, as they all have a messaging feature and anyone can get in touch. It’s scary…’
‘My daughter gets limited screen time so I was slightly lulled into a false sense of security – until she used my one click settings on my Kindle to buy a suggested app!’ explains Cathy. ‘Fortunately, an appropriate one and only about a pound but still… Our new tablet has kids mode so you can set which apps are accessible and she also can’t access internet etc. One bonus of using them mostly on flights is that she has no Wi-Fi anyway! It’s definitely something I’ll need to look into more as she gets older, though.’
North East Family Fun
Sam says: ‘When we’re on holiday I don’t let the kids connect to Wi-Fi even if it’s free – they do take their iPads but this is just to play Minecraft or watch pre-loaded movies. They don’t need to be online when we’re away and enjoying a new place.
At home they do spend quite a lot of time online but I’m fine with that – they mostly watch kids YT videos and know the rules and are very clued up about internet safety as its something we talk about regularly and they study the subject at school, too.’
While I’m not trying to cause panic, and for parents to rush off and enforce a blanket ban on all devices and social media, it’s prudent that we tackle this issue head on, and be more proactive in protecting our children from online dangers – whether we are at home, or on holiday abroad.
I’d love to know what you think about online security, and your tips to ensure your kids stay safe.
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*This post was written in collaboration with Kaspersky