A handy checklist for keeping your children safe online

Worried about your child’s safety online? Jocasta Tribe from Marketing for Mums has researched a handy checklist to help you keep them safe.

I am a self-confessed lover of social media. From a professional perspective I have seen what a powerful tool it is to build brands. And from a personal perspective, it is a lifeline to friends and family who sadly I do not see as much as I would like.

However, as a mum of two YouTube loving girls it terrifies me and we haven’t even got to the point of them having their own mobile phones! Daily we hear stories of the impact of cyberbullying, online grooming, children accessing inappropriate content, online fraud and sexting. At the same time the internet offers children endless possibilities to learn, create and communicate.

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So how can we keep our children safe but still allow them to benefit from the wonderful opportunities the digital world provides?

A handy checklist for keeping your children safe online

I am not an expert, however having read articles and attended meetings at my girl’s schools this is the simple checklist I have come up with for how to start to protect children to decrease the risks they face:

1) Talk, talk, talk

Arguably the best way to help children say safe online is to talk to them. Here are three tips to help you:

  • Talk about their online activity – talk about what they want to do online and the sites they want to use so you can understand the situations they are likely to encounter and can provide specific advice on how to deal with them.
  • Keep dialogue open – children have an amazing ability to find ways around rules. For example, in one survey 63% of teens admitted they knew how to hide what they were doing online from their parents. If the dialogue is open and continuous they are less likely to be secretive and more likely to come to you if they are concerned about something.
  • Let them know you support them – ultimately it is about letting your child know that you are always there to support them. There are a number of resources out there to help you to talk about online dangers in an age appropriate way (I’ve listed some below).

2) Set boundaries

It’s never too early to start setting rules about when, where and how long your child can use devices. One rule could be that a device is only used in a communal area so you can keep an ear out for anything that sounds inappropriate. Others could be to agree the sites they can visit and the type of information they can look for and share.

3) Be aware and follow age appropriate guidelines

Games have ratings based upon the content, and each of the social media networks have minimum age restrictions (the minimum age limit is 13 for both Facebook and Instagram).

These guidelines have been created for a reason and are a great way to explain to your child that it isn’t about you being a boring parent, it is about the law and protecting them from seeing things that are not appropriate for their age.

5) Set controls

No filter can be 100% accurate, however it is possible to set controls at three levels: on your broadband router, at device level (such as laptop, phone, tablet, game console) and at application level (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube):

  • Broadband router level – it’s worth considering that if you set controls at router level (the full ‘belts and braces’ approach) it could mean that you also won’t be able to access certain content. Most broadband providers   now offer free parental control packages, so speak to yours to find out what your options are.
  • Device level – each device (laptop, phone, computer, tablet etc) will also have the ability to set parameters, and it’s recommended that any device your children use should have this enabled. Consider also disabling location services on phones so your child doesn’t unintentionally share their location with others.
  • Application level – applications can also have age appropriate settings you can enable. Generally, you can activate and change levels depending upon your child’s age and abilities. Set up password control or disable in-app purchasing so big bills are not run up accidentally.

6) Set profile settings to private

Social media is great to share information, photos and just about everything they do. But your children need to think about the information they post online, as it could be copied and pasted anywhere without their permission – and this can have far-reaching impact (it’s very important to have a conversation about this, as they may not be aware). However, if their settings are set to private and only visible to their friends, the risks are minimised.

It’s also very important that your child is aware that it is an offence to pass on indecent images of someone under the age of 18. So if your child is sent a photo they must never send it on (even if the person in the photo asks them to). Nor must they ever send a naked photo of themselves.

It’s worth reading this advice from a lawyer on the dangers of children taking and sharing indecent photos without realising it is an offence.

7) Choose friends carefully

Children need to understand that they should only be friends with people they know and trust in the real world. So talk to your child about the friends they have online and how they know them.

I am godmother to a friend’s daughter, and one of the stipulations of her going on social media was that both her mother and myself were accepted as friends so she had multiple people who could keep an eye out for potential issues.

This turned out to be a good strategy when I saw a number of unpleasant posts on her feed by some ‘friends’. I contacted her mum straight away who was able to stop the behaviour before it became too damaging. It might not be ‘cool’ but if positioned for safety with clear ground-rules on engagement on the feed it works.

8) Report inappropriate content

Learn how to report any inappropriate content or contact made to your child online. Hopefully you will never need to do this, however there are various options if you do.

On sites such as Facebook and YouTube there are ways to report content and block people. Each site is different so familiarise yourself on what you need to do. Contacting the sites is the only way you can get offensive content removed; activity can also be reported to the police via the ClickCEOP button.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I would love to hear any top tips you have further to the ideas suggested above, so that we can share these with other parents.

Online child safety resources

Here are some more online safety resources you may find helpful:

Jocasta Tribe is the founder of Marketing for Mums.

Photo by Igor Starkov