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Coronavirus lockdown: How to keep your children safe online

April 3, 2020
Safeguarding Children Online

Due to the rapid increase in the number of cases of coronavirus, schools and businesses have temporarily closed. Many people are working from home to help reduce the spread of the disease. Now we are confined to our homes, we are using the internet more, and so are our children.

Today is 404 Day. The day is named after the message that commonly shows up when a website has been blocked: ‘404 page not found error’. The day was created to remind us to apply content filters in order to block websites which are harmful to minors. The internet has its advantages, especially at this unprecedented time, but whether your children are using the internet for online classes or for entertainment, they’re increasingly exposed to online threats. Our Security Consultant, Peter Lescop, shares his five top tips to minimise the dangers.

1. Education

Speaking with your children and educating them about the dangers of the internet is the best defence. Be honest with them and make it an open discussion; they should talk to you about the internet as much as you do to them.

Ask them what they use the internet for and if they’re having any problems online, such as:

  • being bullied
  • being unsure about joining a social media site when they are underaged
  • being unsure about speaking to someone they met online

Spend time with them on the internet, watch movies or help them with their homework. Explore the internet together and take advantage of the benefits it offers. Your child may be missing their friends, so set up a video call for them to chat together, so they don’t feel lonely. You can also get free access to online exercise classes for your child and visit virtual museums and watch educational videos.

2. Emphasise that they shouldn’t share personal information online

Online predators are a huge risk, most pretend to be another child to build trust. Tell your child not to talk to strangers and that the people they talk to online might lie about their age. Make it clear to them that they shouldn’t post any personal information on the internet such as their phone number, where they live and what their friends are called, so that they can’t be traced by a predator. Keep them out of online chat rooms and don’t let them post or download a photo without your permission. They should never meet up with someone they met online without your permission either. If someone is being creepy online, your child should feel comfortable to speak to you about it. They may also not realise that the information they share could be on the internet forever and a private conversation they have could go public. Make sure they understand this and don’t post anything that they wouldn’t want everyone to see.

3. Establish rules

Establish rules for what your children can and cannot do online. You could limit the times they go online by having set times each day with a set duration. Make sure you know what websites they are on and the games they are playing so you can see if they are suitable. Make sure they don’t take their phone, laptop or other devices to bed with them, so they aren’t tempted to go online when they should be sleeping and where you can’t monitor their usage.

4. They should treat others how they would want to be treated

Explain to them that they should act the same online as they do in the physical world. They should be kind and helpful and not say anything that they wouldn’t say face-to-face. This is also the same if they see someone else getting bullied online. They should tell you straight away and not participate or respond to the bully.

5. Secure your computer and put it in a place you can see it

Put their computer or device where you can see it so you can monitor their activity. If they’re on social media, become their friend so you can see what they are posting. Secure your computer with a password so they can’t access it unless you log them in. Know their passwords and tell them you will check their accounts – don’t weaken their trust in you by doing this behind their back. Check their search history and deleted items. Turn on the parental controls on your computer and WIFI settings and put the Google ‘safe’ filter on – that will lock certain sites so that they can only see child-friendly content. Check the settings on each device and app to make sure location sharing is off and turn off chat functions on their gaming devices to stop your child talking to people they don’t know. You can also set parental controls on your smart TV, apps and streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Sky and YouTube so that they can’t view inappropriate content or make in-app purchases.

Please ensure you check with your internet service provider for advice on parental controls and how to activate them.