Safer Internet Day: a parents’ guide

Keep your children safe online with our expert tips on how to monitor the internet

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Children are no longer relying on a desktop computer to get access to the internet, with smartphones, tablets, laptops and even games machines opening up access to the world wide web. A recent report by Ofcom shows that children aged 12-15 are spending more time online, but that children as young as 3 and 4-years-old have already developed keen internet habits, with a third being internet savvy.

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On average, children aged 12-15 have 286 friends linked up to their social media accounts and will see more than 500 adverts pop up in any given day. A survey by Adblock Plus suggests 75% of parents think that this content is inappropriate.

Ofcom further revealed that while 46% of parents had controls in place on the PC or laptop at home, only 31% of parents of 12-15 year olds had similar controls on their phone and only 14% of parents of 5-15s have controls on their handheld/portable games consoles.

Older kids are getting wise to parents’ tools, too. Of the 12 to 15-year-olds polled 54% said they knew how to delete their online history and 22% admitted to knowing how to disable any online filters or controls (although only 8% admitted ever doing this).

But, even if your kids are rather handy with the internet controls, there are a few lessons you can pass on to help keep them safe online. And of course, there are lots of brilliant resources online that can help children learn and develop. So, it’s all about how to use the internet safely and securely, rather than banning it altogether. Marian Merritt, from Norton internet security company shares handy hints to tell your children so you can browse safely:

  • Don’t share personal info: never give out your real name, home address or telephone number online as this can be used by criminals to create a fake identity.
  • Don’t post pictures to everyone: use the settings to mean only friends can see what you post. Don’t post messages that make it clear your family are on holiday and that your home is empty. 
  • Keep your password safe: don’t share your password (except with your parents) and don’t use really obvious answers that others could guess. You shouldn’t use the same password for all of your accounts. 
  • Pin protect your phone: a pin will give you time to wipe the phone if it gets stolen. There are always apps you can download to help you do this remotely. This is especially important if you have automatic logins to your social media or emails.
  • Don’t arrange to meet anyone: people you meet online shouldn’t be met in person. They may not be who they say they are, even if they say they know your friends. 
  • Use sites you know: don’t browse strange websites that you’re not sure about. Stick to websites you know to be safe, or chat to your parents first.
  • Don’t open strange emails: viruses are often sent by email, so only open emails you trust and are expecting. Don’t reply to emails asking you to verify who you are. Best to give the company a call to check. 
  • Add security software to all devices: add a good security package to stop you getting hit by viruses or allowing your children to browse unwanted sites. Keep it up to date and ensure you cover all devices, not just your home PC.

Now test your internet knowledge with our quick IQ test, to see if you know your world wide webs from your Windows.

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Plus, if you’re keen for more info or want to make a complaint, check out Safer Internet Day’s helpful website ParentPort.

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