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How do I keep my young children safe online?

The internet is a weird and wonderful place, and there’s no doubt that your children’s lives will be enriched by being connected. Unfortunately, the vastness of the internet also provides lots of unsuitable content for developing minds. So how do you balance between the two? How do you keep your children safe online?

In Part 1 of a series of posts on internet safety for kids, we’ve created some tips perfect for the problems that a younger age group (from 2 to 8) might face online.

These lists are by no means exhaustive, and you might find certain ones don’t work for you, but we feel that following these rules could help your children have a happier, less intimidating computing experience.

1. Computer placement

The first tip – and arguably the most important – is computer placement. Make sure you put the computer your child is going to use in a public, family-friendly location.

The reasons for this are two-fold: it allows you to support your young child if they run into difficulties or unsuitable content, and it transforms the computer from an isolating experience to one that encourages family participation.

In respect to this tip, you should ensure that your own computing takes place in a family environment and not locked away in a study or spare room.

2. Web browsing boundaries

Most young children won’t know what is available on the internet or where to find it. This means that you probably won’t have the same concerns about adult or illegal content as your would with a teenager.

However, that doesn’t mean that creating limits isn’t important. Setting boundaries for children from a young age will teach them that computers require sensible behaviour and a responsible attitude.

Set computer “rules” (more details in the point below), and change your default web browser to a child-friendly search engine that blocks all adult content, like Ask for Kids and Yahoo! Kids

3. Simple PC rules

We all have different opinions on what computer behaviour is acceptable and at what age our children are ready to understand these rules and their consequences. However, some rules you might want to consider for your child are:

•        Do not give out any details about yourself on the internet. A fun way to do this is to work with your children to create online alter-egos that they can share details about

•        Only use chat rooms that you have both agreed upon previously, typically chat rooms where they are monitored by an adult ( does this)

•        Do not click to “Download” any programs onto the computer without parental permission (reason: this can install malware on your system)

•        Do not fill out online forms or surveys

•        Use only children’s search engines for children

•        No using the internet without an adult’s permission

3. Strong passwords

It’s good to teach children about good password etiquette from a young age. That means as well as advice about picking a strong password (best tip: make it at least 12 letters long!), remind them never to share their passwords.

4. Parental Controls & Anti-virus

This final tip is actually one for the adults: make sure your anti-virus is up-to-date to prevent your children from accidentally downloading malware, and consider turning on some parental controls to prevent access to websites unsuitable for your youngster.

We’ll go through how to turn on parental controls in detail in another article, so come back soon!

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