It’s every parent’s priority to keep their child safe in the big wide world and with a new generation of computer literate children, it’s now also vital to keep them safe on the world wide web.
But new research by McAfee computer security shows that while 72% of parents worry about their children’s online safety, and yet 81% don’t actually turn on parental controls, which block unsuitable content.
The research of mums and dads across the UK also found that a quarter of all 5 to 7-year-olds have their own computer and 17% are allowed to surf the net unsupervised in their bedrooms.
And without supervision, it’s impossible to keep an eye on what your children are doing online. Recently, parents of three-year-old, Pipi Quinlan from New Zealand were shocked to discover their little girl had bid for – and won – an industrial digger for NZ$20,000 (£8,000) on Ebay. “She doesn’t even like tractors,” said her mum. “I think she was just clicking on the computer to see what happened.”
Luckily for Pipi’s parents, a quick phone call meant the accidental purchase was cleared up. But not all stories have such a funny side and that’s why it’s vital that parents are on top of online security.
“Children are spending more and more time online and as a result the risks are also on the rise,” explains Marc Vos from McAfee. “These dangers take many forms, from children simply coming across inappropriate content, to being involved in cyber-bullying or in conversations with unknown individuals on social media websites.”
Of course, the web offers many positives with a wealth of educational and recreational content to support your child’s learning. It’s simply a matter of making sure they know how to surf safely and that your computer has the right software uploaded to filter out unsuitable material.
According to McAfee’s research, it’s dads who are championing online security awareness for children at home, with 68% of them teaching their children how to use the internet safely.
“It takes both education and technology to protect children from online dangers,” says Marc. “I recommend having a communal PC in the lounge or kitchen, so you can see how and when your children are using the internet. Encourage your children to talk to you about their internet activities and experiences. Ask about their online friends as you would their school mates, and encourage them to use the internet with you. You’ll probably be surprised how much they can teach you too!” A wealth of practical tips and advice are available also available from Kidsshield.com and ProtectKids.com.
When it comes to security software, again it’s good old dad who takes on the role of IT manager within the household. However, despite concerns for their children’s safety, more than half of parents admit that they haven’t actually changed the standard security settings since buying their computer. If that’s you, now is the time. It depends on your internet provider as to the parental controls available but Internet Explorer has in built support for parental controls. Safari and Firefox browsers do not have in built controls so it’s best to download security software.
“Beyond education, security software, such as McAfee’s Family Protection software, is an essential part of ensuring your children are using the internet safely,” says Marc. “Security software makes it simple for parents to keep their children safe online. Not only can it block inappropriate websites and content, but also gives parents the ability to track what their children are doing online. Parents can then use this information to teach their children safe internet habits. You and your family can be up and running safely online in no time!”
The most important advice is to talk to your children about staying safe when they’re using the internet. Almost half of parents don’t actually know that their children have online profiles and, on average, only 19% of parents regularly talk to their children about safe surfing.
“Talk to your children openly about what is safe and what is not safe, what information should they share and what should be kept private,” advises Marc. “Stress that they should tell you if they receive any odd or upsetting messages and that you will not be angry with them or ban the Internet as a result. Make it clear that you understand that they cannot control what other people say to them.” By encouraging your children to tell you if they do come across anything on the web that upsets them or makes them feel uncomfortable, they will gradually learn to protect themselves online.