AS a dad to four kids under 8, the internet, tablets, smart phones and everything that goes with them are looming large on the horizon for our family. So far, the kids seem content with Netflix on the TV for their daily screen time but it won’t be long before that changes and they become more aware of the other gaming, streaming and social media apps that are out there.
The digital world of course can be amazing for learning, for socialising and of course for having fun but it can also feel like the wild west when it comes to putting controls in place to ensure your children are accessing appropriate content.
The good news is that our ability to set limits is getting better all the time and the following are some tips that can help you navigate this area.
Before we can get into the technology controls that you can put in place it is important to first set some boundaries that everyone can agree together in terms of what is acceptable. You should discuss with your kids:
What they are allowed use in terms of devices, app and games etc.
When and for how long they can use it, for example, one hour max after homework has been done.
Where can the device be used. E.g. no phones in the bedroom at night Who can they contact. E.g. messaging only with friends you know.
It is also a good idea to encourage your kids to build credit for using their device by doing other activities such as outdoor exercise or things that benefit others.
Setting up a safe environment
Many devices and apps now come with parental controls. It is important to spend some time understanding and activating these as they all work in different ways.
Your Wi-Fi Router: This is the entry and exit point for the internet traffic coming into your home. The newer routers will enable you to apply rules that extend across any devices that are connected. You can set access times, daily time limits and set up push notifications that will alert you when devices are connecting.
Smart devices: Apple and Android devices also have parental controls that you can activate. This will give you the ability to restrict access to download apps, games and music etc. If you want to allow access to the app stores you can set appropriate age categories and also limit access to paid applications. These settings can be found in the App Store or Google play store on the device.
Popular apps: Google has a feature called Safe Search that will filter out any adult content from your kids search results. Similarly, you switch on Safety Mode on YouTube to make sure no age-inappropriate content is being accessed. If you have young kids you can download YouTube for Kids as all the content that is available has been specifically curated for kids. Apps such as TikTok and Snap Chat all have settings that can be switched on to control their use.
Other apps that can help Google’s Family Link app works across Android and Apple devices and can help you stay in the loop as to what your kids are up to on their devices.
It will help you set some digital ground rules for the family and can also help you to set filtering options on other google apps like Search and Chrome.
It’s important to note that none of these solutions are perfect and even the best filters cannot block all inappropriate content so you should stay close to what your child is doing and also pay attention to any updates that can happen that may require you to update the parental controls you have previously set.
Encouraging Good Habits
All the above can help limit the content that your kids get access to, but it is also equally important to explain the permanence of content that they share to the outside world.
Ensure that when your kids have access to share content with others that they will know exactly who will have access to it and you should discuss with them what content is appropriate to share versus what could be potentially damaging to them and others. We hear more and more stories in the media of adults who may have shared something inappropriate in their past that has managed to resurface many years later.
Above all, creating a climate where your child knows they can speak to you especially if they make a mistake will give you fail-safe should any of the controls previously mentioned not work.
There is a wealth of great resources out there that will help you stay up to date on the best ways to keep your kids safe online. Trend Micro have an excellent Internet Safety for Kids and Families program and you can find all the latest tips on the technology your kids are using now. They are running a Cyber Academy Program for 7 to 10 year olds in September that will provide excellent guidance on the most prevalent cyber topics effecting kids today. It’s all free and easy to access at www.internetsafety.trendmicro.com.
Special thanks to the Trend Micro Internet Safety for Kids and Families Team for their support with this article.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John-Ross Hunt is a Product Manager with Cyber Security leaders Trend Micro. He specializes in the area of enterprise security awareness training with the product Phish Insight