Today is Safer Internet Day – a day that I feel is far more important than some of the other senseless 'International days' the commercial world now celebrates. Because, whether we like it or not, the Internet is the future and our children are going to use it sooner than later, even if you restrict online screen-time now. And not just for games and YouTube videos to keep them quiet while you make dinner, but even for homework and as a subject at school. They will soon know how to "google it" and honestly, there is no point in stopping them because in today's day and age, they NEED THE INTERNET.
The Internet can do as much harm as it can good, if children are exposed to the wrong material online. And while it is impossible to monitor their every online move, there are apps and parental controls that can block out some sites and set certain limits. If your children are old enough to understand, educating them about the dangers of the Internet is essential, so they realise when something is amiss.
So I asked a few parents what measures they take to ensure their children are safe while on the net.
Janet – Falcondale Life
Kids age – 12 and 16 years
I've never found a useful app so I just impose my own rules, talk it through with the girls and check up on them myself.
Georgina – Gee Garrner
Kids age – 7.5 years
Make use of any and all parental controls and keep tabs on what they're watching online.
Laura – Five Little Doves
Kids age – 3, 4, 5 years
I use parental controls on apps such as Kids YouTube and Netflix. It's important to know that they can't click onto anything they shouldn't be watching, even when our backs are turned!
Emma – The Money Whisperer
Kids age – 4 and 6 years
We use parent controls on Kids YouTube but if I am going to leave them alone for a while with the iPad, I'll often switch off WiFi and make them watch movies or episodes of Dengineers which we've downloaded instead. They aren't old enough to know how to put the WiFi back on yet!
Cass – The Diary of a Frugal Family
Kids age – 13 and 15 years
My children are a little bit older at 15 and almost 13 and I don't use any parent controls. We have very open discussions about the dangers of the Internet and I have access to their accounts if I ever feel I need to check anything.
Linda – Mother Distracted
Kids age – 8 and 10 years
We use Ourpact which allows us to schedule access times and block immediately. It's really useful to switch off when they need to do their homework or if they are being naughty.
Sophie – Soph-Obsessed
My husband works in IT so he's very strict about the Internet and has an abundance of parental controls that filter out anything that wouldn't be suitable. It's helpful when our son is using the Internet for his homework etc and means that if we have to turn our back for a second there isn't that worry!
Kara –Kids age – 4
My daughter is four and after one of the videos that she was watching on YouTube Kids took a very disturbing turn, I deleted the app from the iPad altogether. We had parental controls, but it seems no filter is 100% reliable. Instead she watches CBeebies as I am confident that the content is appropriate.
Leigh – Dad Geek
Kids age – 4, 6 and 8 years
Supervision is key. Many apps and videos labelled as safe can turn out not to be. Be involved in what media your child consumes online and they should develop good habits.
Terri – The Strawberry Fountain
Kids age – 8 years
My 8-year-old likes to play Roblox with his friends and one way we try and keep him safe (as well as supervision and parent controls) is that he has to show us every time someone sends a friend request, and we have to check with the parents that it is one of his friends before he can accept it, to prevent him talking to any strangers.
Vikki – Family travel with Ellie
Kids age – 7 and 11 years
My 11-year-old son has just started playing Roblox with his buddies. I have made sure we have regular, frank and open conversations about the risks and dangers. I check his account each day to keep note of any messaging and friend requests. He plays in the same room I'm in too. My daughter is 7 and in my mind nowhere near ready to play anything online – she's not got the understanding of potential dangers yet. There is a trust element involved with my son – I have to trust him to be sensible but on the same token I keep a very beady eye on what's happening. I have safety settings on any programs the children use but in my mind none of these are 100% reliable and parental involvement and common sense is the best option.
Joy – Pinkoddy
Kids age – 8, 10, 14 years
We have passwords that the children do not know so they can only gain access when we allow. They don't play in their rooms and we always talk about safety. This is after we had problems with our teen getting up in the night.
For more advice and resources, visit the UK Safer Internet Centre
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