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The Best Way to Keep Kids Safe Online? Talk to Them.

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In the tech-saturated world of 2018, your child can be connected to the internet at almost any time and in any location whether via the web, mobile, WhatsApp, Snapchat, or any combination of the above — and this can sometimes be a troubling thought for any parent. While there are obvious benefits to connectivity and greater communication, issues such as mental health and cyberbullying can have a huge impact on children as young as nine — as this Huffington Post article explores. Though it may feel like there is a new social channel or app (or worry) popping up every week, parental controls have also followed suit, providing a wide range of sophisticated monitoring and filtering tools for parents.

The digital domain does not have to be as intimidating as it first appears. First and foremost, it is critical to recognise that the first step towards online safety should be a simple thing: a conversation. UK Safer Internet has great information on how to spark this conversation with your child. See what platforms they use (and how they use them!) Parents can also utilise the tools from Digital Sisters and Digital Awareness UK to encourage social media awareness, empower children to enjoy using safety tools, and practice online etiquette. Being actively involved in your child’s online life is important, and talking about it now will help both of you communicate more openly if issues arise in the future.

Even though children can learn and practice web safety, parental controls not only provide greater control of internet access but also allow parents peace of mind. Like Internet Matters says, parental controls are the group of settings, along with privacy settings, that allow parents to control the content your child can and cannot see. Within the realm of parental controls, the options range from controlling content from the source or by the device. Filtering is like casting a safety net over the world wide web and does not allow content you wouldn’t like your child to see through. Monitoring, on the other hand, allows you to actively dive into your child’s internet history, digital footprint, block, and set time limits. Both are beneficial as Internet Matter states:

More than 90% of parents of five to 15 year olds who use parental control software consider it useful.

A variety of systems are on the market, but many of these services base their pricing on the number of devices covered and the level of protection on each device. One that PC Mag recommends is Norton Family which allows for unlimited devices, individual user settings, social media monitoring, and remote management. If you don’t want to set parental controls on each of your family’s devices, then a whole-network solution might be a better option. PC Mag mentions brands like Circle with Disney or Open DNS, which both allow content filtering and access scheduling. Both of these options allow filtering from the router rather than the device, so no unwanted material enters any device on the network. However, there are many other options are on the market!

Remember that each device — phone, tablet, and laptop — is different, and so are each of the device privacy settings, parental controls, and monitoring systems. We recommend researching which one is best for you and your family. By talking with your children and safeguarding their screens, you and your children can enjoy videos, computer games, and social media together.

For more information and advice on parental controls, be sure to sign up for our mailing list! In an upcoming newsletter, blue{shift} director Heather Lyons will be sharing her super-handy checklist for safe, secure family internet use.