Children of all ages have access to a large range of devices – mobile phones, gaming consoles, smart TVs, laptops and tablets, and the days where depriving them of access to these is probably behind us.
- Supervision: This is probably as much to do with the age and maturity of the child – but the biggest risk might be what happens on a device when there is no one else about.
- Monitoring Software: It’s plentiful and can be installed and centrally monitored to check on the information your child is accessing. Tom’s Guide is worth a read.
- Hackers: Home devices are very susceptible to attack. Make sure children do not have admin rights over their devices (so they cannot install software without your permission) and install a good security product such as Sophos free home edition.
2. Internet Browsing
- Safe Searching: Turn on the safe search for Google and speak to your internet provider and see what they can offer for child protection. A younger child may need supervision when using technology.
- Restricted Access Time: This can be done centrally from your router or on the individual device using the control software mentioned previously.
- Parental Controls: Unlimited access can result in huge bills and can mean access to inappropriate material. Ensure your family is set up properly on the ecosystem you want to use. This is often done through the control account for the platform of choice.
- Typically locked platforms such as PS4, Xbox, or Switch are easier to control than games running on a PC or Mac. Pay attention to PEGI rating systems and make sure you are comfortable with what your child will experience in games, in a similar way to a movie age rating.
- Here are some links to Parental Control support from some of the popular providers. Microsoft Sony Nintendo Apple
4. Social Media (Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter , TikTok etc.)
Make sure your children only have access to platforms that are age suitable, most providers limit access based on age. What age can my child start social networking is a good article to help get a better understanding of the many different social platforms on offer to young people. It's may also be worth reading the terms and conditions of the various platforms as you might not agree with the type of information they allow for the age group you are interested in.
- Inappropriate material: Remember it’s not just violent or sexually graphic material that can be damaging. A lot of these platforms, and people posting to them, spread ideas and ways of thinking that might not fit with your world view. Make sure you know who your children are following and make sure you are ok with those people having direct access at what is most likely an impressionable age.
5. Trust and Honesty
Ultimately policing online activity is very hard. Children and especially teenagers are likely to be tech-savvy, and will probably get access to content from friends and acquaintances that you cannot control. So, trust has to play a strong part in all of this, especially with teenagers. The best policy is to get yourself properly informed and then have open and honest discussions with your children about the impact of the online world on them, make sure they understand why you have concerns, and agree on the rules with them.