Summer holidays can often be a balancing act for parents, juggling a full-time job and keeping the children entertained outside of school. For the kids, the internet offers them an outlet to connect and chat with friends, play games online and stream movies and their favourite TV shows. But this is not always easy to supervise and with this comes the risk of children accessing sites and viewing content, which is not always appropriate. A recent survey by an online security company highlighted that parents rely too much on teachers to educate their children online safety. As we head into the summer parents should therefore look to take the initiative and sit down with their kids to discuss the importance of staying safe while on the internet.
For any parent wondering where to start with such a vast subject here are some hints and tips:
#1 – Ensure your anti-virus software is up-to-date
The internet offers unlimited possibilities for children to entertain and educate themselves. Sometimes however, the further they delve, the more chance there is of coming across unsolicited websites, which contain malware and viruses. It is important that you and your children are aware of the importance of checking and updating software to ensure you are protected online. It’s important you both understand how to scan for viruses and know what to look for in a threat.
#2 – Be careful what you click
Fake websites and pop up adverts can often appear legitimate and there are thousands of ads telling you where to stream the best TV shows or how to make a bit of summer pocket-money right from the comfort of your home, simply by entering a few personal details. Help your children understand that emails requesting passwords and user names may be fake even if they look legitimate. They should never click on links in such emails.
#3 – Optimise your browser with extensions/add-ons to better your internet experience
The app you use the most is still likely a web browser. Whatever browser you use, there are a number of add-ons that can improve its performance and personalise your experience. Simple features such as Adblock Plus, which can be added to your internet browser enable you to block online adverts, that may contain inappropriate images or infect your computer when clicked on. For inquisitive children they are only one click away from stumbling onto a site, which is very age inappropriate. Software like Adblock Plus, which takes away the threat of inappropriate advertisings, provides greater peace of mind for you and your children when they’re online.
#4– Password protection
It’s never too early to educate your kids on the importance of password protection. Even at a young age encourage your children to create strong and unique passwords. While they might not have the stresses and struggles of online banking and PayPal accounts to manage, the risk of cyber bullies getting hold of your online profile and passwords can be equally as damaging. As annoying as it is, passwords should not be the same across different sites/accounts and should contain a mixture of lower and upper case letters and numbers. This will help to keep your personal and valuable information private.
#5 – Online bullying
With an estimated one in four students said to suffer from some form of online bullying, parents must stay alert to changes in their children’s attitude and discuss with them their fears and feelings. Social media is a big source of cyber bullying so look at the policies of the sites used, record the evidence of bullying and don’t be afraid to block harassers.
#6 – Online reputation
Being out and about during summer can often present opportunities for fun and mischief. What seemed fairly harmless at the time might show up in a different light the next day and if you’ve already shared the events of a wild night online, they could come back to haunt you. It’s important your children understand that when you post something online it is there to be seen forever, and the repercussions of that in adulthood can potentially be extremely damaging.
#7 – Online predators
Sadly, there are all too many incidents of children and young people becoming victims of online predators. For the parent, it is never an easy conversation to discuss but it’s imperative that children understand the dangers. Regardless of how old your child is do not let them give out personal information and don’t be afraid to monitor their conversations. If you suspect anything untoward, end the communication immediately and if subjects like sex or physical details are approached, contact your local authorities.