Top Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe Online
- Talk to your child about what they’re up to online. Be a part of their online life; involve the whole family and show an interest. Find out what sites they visit and what they love about them, if they know you understand they are more likely to come to you if they have any problems. Watch Thinkuknow films and cartoons with your child. The www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents has films, games and advice for child from five all the way to 16.
- Encourage your child to go online and explore! There is a wealth of age-appropriate sites online for your children. Encourage them to use sites which are fun, educational and that will help them to develop online skills.
- Keep up-to-date with your child’s development online. Children grow up fast and they will be growing in confidence and learning new skills daily. It’s important that as your child learns more, so do you.
- Set boundaries in the online world just as you would in the real world. Think about what they might see, what they share, who they talk to and how long they spend online. It is important to discuss boundaries at a young age to develop the tools and skills children need to enjoy their time online.
- Keep all equipment that connects to the internet in a family space. For children of this age, it is important to keep internet use in family areas so you can see the sites your child is using and be there for them if they stumble across something they don’t want to see.
- Know what connects to the internet and how. Nowadays even the TV connects to the internet. Make sure you’re aware of which devices that your child uses connect to the internet, such as their phone or games console. Also, find out how they are accessing the internet – is it your connection, or a neighbour’s wifi? This will affect whether the safety setting you set are being applied.
- Use parental controls on devices that link to the internet, such as the TV, laptops, computers, games consoles and mobile phones. Parental controls are not just about locking and blocking, they are a tool to help you set appropriate boundaries as your child grows and develops. They are not the answer to your child’s online safety, but they are a good start and they are not as difficult to install as you might think. Service providers are working hard to make them simple, effective and user friendly. There is a link on the ‘Think u Know’ website which can help you find your service provider and set your controls.
- Help your child to understand that they should never give out personal details to online friends—personal information includes their messenger ID, email address, mobile number and any pictures of themselves, their family and friends. If your child publishes a picture or video online, anyone can change it or share it. Remind them that anyone could be looking at their images!
- If you child receives spam/junk email and texts, remind them never to believe them, reply to them or use them. It’s not a good idea for your child to open files from people they don’t know. They won’t know what they contain—it could be a virus or worse—an inappropriate image or film.
- Help your child to understand that some people lie online and therefore it’s better to keep online mates online. They should never meet up with any strangers without an adult they trust.
Other information: Mobile Phones
Report serious threat or harassment on your phone to the police.
Report bullying or nuisance calls to your mobile operator.
Report text message scams to PhonepayPlus by dialling 0800 500 212 or by visiting www.phonepayplus.org.uk
Learn about mobile phone issues at Childnet’s Chatdanger website, it has an excellent section on mobile phones. www.chatdanger.com
Other information: Downloading
Find out what’s on your family computer: the best way is simply to ask your family members or try running the Digital File Check from www.ifpi.org
Be aware of the legal risks: for links to over 200 legal music retailers worldwide, go to www.pro-music.org/musiconline.htm
Make sure your computer is secure: for more information on how to make your computer secure and recommended tools see www.childnet.com/sorted
You may also find the Government run “Think U Know” website useful https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/Secondary/
Filtering – Addressing Misconceptions
Following the Prime Minister’s request that “family friendly filters are to be applied across public Wi-Fi networks” (Cameron, 2013), it’s great to see public Wi-Fi providers responding all in the name of keeping our younger users safer online. Also, in the future, filtering of extreme content on residential connections will be switched on as standard with users having to opt out of this rather than opting in as we have to currently. In educational establishments, professionals have to consider their duty of care to the young people who attend and usually, the implications of this mean that a more comprehensive filtering solution will be in place with added restrictions to help protect younger users. The one thing that we don’t hear often enough when filtering is mentioned in politics or the media is the fact that it is only part of the answer to keeping young people safe online. Regular conversations about online safety both at school and home form the other essential component. A reliance on filtering alone can cause some or all of the following issues to arise:
- Limited access to useful resources
- A decreased resilience to risk online
- The encouragement of unsupervised access elsewhere
- A barrier to learning
- Unexplained access to graphic images
Interestingly, Ofsted have reported that schools who heavily block access to content find it to the detriment of their e-safety practice. In contrast, those professionals who see filtering as only one piece of the puzzle can find that filtering:
- Can provide report logs on content accessed potentially tracing back to an individual
- When used effectively, can form a positive part of e-safety practice and policy
- Can be used as an effective review tool to help give your establishment intelligence about the content that is being accessed on site.
With all this in mind, let’s explore some of the common misconceptions that people have about filtering:
- Filtering stops children accessing graphic images on search engines – False
This is one of the most common complaints school internet providers receive and can be prevented, to a certain extent, by the use of a moderated search engine such aswww.swiggle.org.uk. The problem with images nowadays is that their respective web addresses (URL’s) don’t always contain anything offensive. Considering that’s what the filter will be looking at, it’s not really surprising that graphic thumbnails may appear. Let’s work this through and think of the URL as a code. If this code contains a ‘trigger’ word or string of letters/ numbers e.g. ‘porn’ or ‘xxx’ then chances are it will be picked up by the setting’s filter. However, if this code is just a random string of letters and/or numbers, the filter won’t necessarily recognize it, resulting in the graphic content being shown.
- Filtering stops cyberbullying – False
This is a common misunderstanding. We need to remember it’s not the websites that are the issue here, it’s the behaviour being displayed. By trying to block access to the sites where people are being abusive, we’re not addressing the real problem. Furthermore, if a young person wants to access something they’ll just find another way to and this won’t necessarily be very safe. Also worth noting that, the Internet Watch Foundation’s CAIC filtering list prevents access to illegal content only.
- What they can’t see online won’t hurt them – False
To the contrary. Consider this – would you expect Usain Bolt to be able to win the Tour de France without receiving guidance from a cycling coach first? (I mean the yellow jersey not the green one!) In the same way that Bolt would be out of his comfort zone in this situation, children too are entering unchartered territory online. They need to understand the different areas of risk online before facing these in order to learn resilience. Some points to consider that can help you encourage resilience are:
Considering the steps your establishment would take if a young person happened to access something inappropriate online.
Whether the young people in your setting are aware of what to do if they stumble across unsuitable content.
How young people in your setting are empowered to report any problems online should they arise.
Whether the parents and carers have parental controls set on their home devices.
- Filtering protects childhood innocence – False
Filtering can help prevent access to the most extreme content but is only part of the solution. It’s the same old message, education is key and professionals working with children have a really important part to play in ensuring children understand what content might upset them and what they can do if they come across this.
Safety tools for social networks
We recently released new e-safety guides showing how to manage the key safety features on your favourite social networks and online services including Facebook, Twitter, Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters, Tumblr, Ask.fm and many more. You can find out more about these and take a look at the guides here
If you need further advice or support with any incident relating to exposure of extreme content online in your setting, you can call the Professionals Online Safety Helpline on 0844 381 4772 or email them at email@example.com