Keeping your children safe online

2nd April 2020

Keeping your children safe online can be difficult. The kids are home from school and you’re all confined to the house. What a nightmare! Until the schools are open again, your child will likely be spending a lot of time online, whether that’s to learn, to play, or to keep in touch with their family and friends. It’s great that children can access so much information online, but are you worried about keeping them safe while they do?  The team at Doorstep Library have compiled a useful guide to help you. 

Things to watch out for

  • What they see: some online material is not suitable for children and may be harmful. We can use parental controls to mitigate this risk (more on this later).
  • Who they talk to: children can be contacted by people you don’t know and can be exposed to information or behaviour which isn’t always positive.  Talk to your children about what they’re doing, and let them know that they should tell someone if they come across anything hurtful. 
  • What they do: it’s easy to feel anonymous on the internet, but it’s important that your children understand that all online activity creates a digital footprint. Talk to them about keeping personal information safe and not sharing it with strangers.
  • What they spend: hidden costs and advertising can take us all by surprise. Learn how to block both pop-ups, turn off in-app purchasing where possible, and use a family email address when filling in online forms. Keep your children safe online

What can I do?

The best thing you can do to keep your child safe is to talk to your child regularly about what they are doing online. Stay up to date with what they like, and why it’s fun. If you make this a non-judgemental, everyday conversation, your children will be more likely to come to you when they are worried about something. This booklet, written by the NSPCC with O2, has lots more guidance on talking to your children about online safety, including a template family agreement and a Parents vs Kids quiz that’s bound to be a conversation starter!

The next step is to establish parental controls on your internet and devices. You can set time limits and create content filters. Take a look at:

Your home wifi: Get in touch with your Internet Service Provider and ask them to enable parental protection on your account. This will prevent access to adult material from all devices on your wifi, although if your child has a mobile with 4G they can get around this.

Mobiles and tablets: lots of devices come with settings to help you manage what your children can access. Check the location settings to see what your child is sharing and enable parental controls on your children’s devices (here’s a guide for Apple and Android).

Games consoles and TV: set up profiles for different family members. You can also turn off chat functions. All consoles include some level of parental controls that allow you to limit the number of hours available in any 1 day.

Keeping your children safe online Search engines: search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing all have controls that you can turn on to protect enquiring minds from inappropriate content.

Social media apps: most popular apps will have parental controls that you can turn on. Not sure how to do this? Check out Net Aware. Just type in the name of an app or game and you will find lots of information about its uses and risks, as well as tips for staying safe. 

Top tip! Check the settings on other internet-connected devices in your homes, such as baby monitors, Fitbits, or toys with voice or image recognition. It’s important to read the instructions for anything that is connected to the internet – for example, make sure to set a password for your baby monitor and change the default login. Default settings for all these devices might include things like GPS location tracking, public WiFi and camera or chat access. Turn these off and check the device privacy settings to make sure they suit you.  

Need help?

NSPCC has teamed up with O2 to create a free online safety helpline. Expert advisors at the free helpline are there to help with any questions you have. Call them on 0808 8005002

If you’d like to know more, the NSPCC also offers free online safety workshops and webinars for parents and carers across the UK. Sessions from an hour to 30 minutes are available. Contact parentworkshops@nspcc.org.uk to arrange a workshop or webinar for your workplace or community.

Are you a teacher, or do you work with children? Call the Professionals Online Safety Helpline on 0344 381 4772.

There’s so much out there! … And we’re here to help. 

There is so much online at the moment to help you and your family make the most of this time at home. Check out the Family Zone at the National Literacy Trust, which has loads of books, games and online resources for you to try, or Audible, who recently announced that a vast number of their audiobooks would be free as long as schools are shut. 

Keep an eye on our blog, or sign up to our newsletter, as we’ll be posting about lots more educational, fun things to do online. 

By making these small changes and having those conversations you will make sure they enjoy the benefits of the digital world whilst keeping your children safe online. Happy Surfing!