2Educating Your Child About Internet Security

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One of the most effective ways in which you can keep your child safe online is to educate them about safe online practices and acceptable Internet use. By regularly talking with your children about their online activities and explaining to them about the dangers of using the Internet irresponsibly, you enable your children to develop a better understanding of how to behave whilst online and the information that they should and should not share.

According to a recent survey by The Independent; "one in four children aged between 6 and 12 have shared personal information online with strangers...including their full name, address, password and images". Consequently, it is extremely important that you educate your children about the dangers of sharing personal information across the Internet. Listed below are several ways in which you can effectively educate your children about Internet security:

As well as remaining aware of your children's Internet activities, it is important that you can talk with your children about Internet safety. It is advisable that you begin to talk with your children about Internet safety once they begin to use your family computer and access the Internet. You need to explain to your child that not everything they read online is true and that the people they meet online may not be who they say they are. It is helpful to convey to your child that, in the same way that they should not talk to or meet up with strangers, they should practise the same rules whilst online. If you regularly talk with your children and ask them about their Internet usage, you can create an environment in which they can discuss their Internet practices with you without feeling as if their privacy is being invaded. Examples of questions which you could discuss with your child include:

  • Which websites do you enjoy visiting the most? What do you do on these websites?
  • Who do you talk with the most whilst online? Do you know them in real life?
  • Did you have to register for any of the websites you visit? What information did they ask for and what information did you give them?
  • What would you do if you were faced with a problem online?

By asking these questions, you can help your children to imagine potential situations they may encounter whilst online and consider how they would react. By discussing these situations, you can help your child to understand safe Internet practices and they can begin to learn how to act responsibly whilst online.

Outline acceptable Internet use:

Set a series of rules, which you children can follow whilst they are online. For example, state that they must use their computer or mobile Internet device in a communal family room. This will ensure you can check that they are accessing age appropriate content. Similarly, you should assign a specific amount of time during which they are allowed to use the Internet. This will ensure they are not on the Internet for a prolonged period of time and that they take regular breaks. Moreover, you should teach your children never to download files from unknown sites without your permission. If you state that your children must check with you before downloading any content, then you can protect them from downloading any inappropriate, illegal or malware content.

Introduce your children to child-friendly search engines:

By introducing your children to child-friendly search engines, you can ensure they are searching the Internet safely. This is due to the fact that child-friendly search engines will filter out any online content, which is deemed inappropriate for children to view. Alternatively, you can also implement 'safe search settings' on your default Internet search engine in order to safeguard your children from any inappropriate or illegal online content.

Examples of child-friendly search engines include:

Google's Safe Search is also a valuable resource for parents. To activate Safe Search, visit the "Search Settings" page on your browser, and within the "Safe Search filters" section you can select or unselect "Filter explicit results". All you have to do now is click "Save" at the bottom of the page and your parental control settings will be activated. By assigning either Google or one of the aforementioned child friendly search engines as the homepage for your family computer, you can enable your children to search the Internet safely and securely.

Implement privacy settings for your child's online accounts:

Many online gaming sites and social networking sites will require users to register their full name, address and contact details. Therefore, it is important that you scrutinise the privacy settings on every online account, which your child has created. Check to see how much personal information they have listed on these sites and how much of it is publicly visible to other users. It is crucial that you remind your children to keep their personal information private and to ensure that they have switched off the GPS or location tracking options for these sites.

If you speak with your children regularly and explain to them that these type of sites use software which can locate where users are, it will educate them on how not to reveal their location to strangers. Advise them against 'checking in' their location on social networking or gaming sites, or by 'tagging' themselves in photos, which are not private. By implementing these measures, your children can continue to use these online gaming and social networking sites all the while protecting themselves and their personal information from strangers.

Warn your children about interacting with strangers online:

Above all else, you need to educate your children about the dangers of talking with online users whom they do not know. Make sure your children are aware that, just because they have talked to someone online or have played an online game with them, this does not mean that they know them well. Warn your children about online users who use false personal information and photos. By doing so, you can teach your children to be wary of suspicious users who attempt to contact them online.

Discuss with your children who they talk to online and the type of information, which they share with these people. Introduce the concept of online boundaries with your children and let them know that, if they are talking with someone they do not know, that they should contact you so that you can deal with the matter. Fundamentally, warn your children that, unless they know an online user in real life, that they should not talk or share personal information with them. Moreover, they should not agree to meet with anyone who they have only talked to online.

By explaining these online risks to your children and educating them on the correct ways in which they can deal with these issues, you can educate your children on how to use the Internet safely. These safe practices will significantly reduce the likelihood of your children encountering inappropriate online content and of interacting with potentially dangerous online users; particularly on online gaming sites or social media networks.